Swedish AOR collective Houston have released their third full-length album, craftily entitled III, but to be honest I can’t see the album making too many waves beyond a very tight group of the band’s rusted-on devotees.
There’s always been something slightly anodyne about this band, but they have on occasion turned out some nice work which means I’ve given them the benefit of the doubt despite being slightly underwhelmed by both their previous releases.
And that’s much the case once again with III; For every Everlasting (a freewheeling, summery piece of radio rock that’ll raise a smile and a fist pump wherever fans of this type of stuff gather together) there’s a Dangerous Love (a horrible, trite slice of Disney frippery more suited to Hilary Duff et al), meaning that you never really feel the band are hitting their stride or are indeed worthy of anything more than cursory consideration.
At the heart of the matter are the vocals of Hank Erix, whose faceless voice never takes a song by the scruff of the neck, rendering much of the material mired in identikit impotence. A better singer would have made Lights Out a tear-jerking, lighter-waving epic rather than a take-it-or-leave it radio ballad, and often as a listener you’ll be feeling the band have failed to take full advantage of some really quite good songwriting.
Amazing is a case in point; a dramatic opening is frittered away as once again the band hit autopilot, determined to cruise with the top down in the middle lane when you really want them to go for broke; Calle Hammar does provide some nice guitar work, but it’s not quite enough to elevate a good song into a great one. When Erix gets close, however, as he does on the excellent To Be You, you are given a tantalising glimpse of what might be in the future…
Dangerous Love aside, there’s nothing actively horrible about III, and I’ll certainly be pleased to hear Amazing blasting out on Sentinel Daily Radio over the coming months, but once again Houston have just fallen short of fulfilling their obvious talent to its utmost. A shame.
Houston will release III through Livewire/Cargo on November 24th.