Houston band photo

HOUSTON – II

Houston IIBack in 2010, a Swedish duo, Hank Erix – vocals and Freddie Allen – drums, recorded an album that more or less took the world of AOR and melodic rock by storm. They called their project Houston as they had always been fans of bands with a city name connection – Boston, Chicago, L.A. – and their self titled debut album got some rave reviews in magazines such as Classic Rock and they were more or less hailed as the new, great hope for AOR. The guys wore their influences – (apart from the just mentioned) Journey, Foreigner, Asia and Survivor – on their sleeves. Nothing new under the sun there, but who cares as long as the quality in the song writing and production is flawless. Now, I wasn’t one of those who sang Houston’s praise, I wasn’t that impressed with their debut at all. It’s not that I thought that the album was bad, but even though it’s easy to hear that the guys are very good at what they’re doing, the music never stuck and it felt like I had heard those songs a million times before with better versions. They also released their follow up, which really wasn’t meant as a follow up, back in 2011. The album was called Relaunch and consisted mostly of covers of old 80’s AOR tunes. That’s why the band wants to look at that CD as an intermission as opposed to a real follow up.

Now, I wouldn’t really be interested in this album (I haven’t even heard Relaunch), because the last one didn’t make an impression on me, but there were some big talk about this one as well before it was released and even more so afterwards and even though this didn’t get the same raving reviews as the debut did, something got me interested anyway. One thing that has happened since their debut is that keyboard player Ricky Delin now is a permanent member of the band, turning them into a trio. Other than that nothing much has happened. The music is still the soft, pink and fluffy AOR that they were playing on their debut album and quality wise, it’s much of the same there too, but I must state that this album feels more even and the songs feels more genuine. First track “Glory” has a brilliant arrangement and a catchy melody which makes it one of the top songs on this album, “I’m Coming Home” is more catchy than chlamydia and it has some huge hit potential, “Return My Heart” has some really good verses, but unfortunately, the chorus isn’t closely as strong, but while “Back To The Summer Of Love” might be a cute song, it’s way too cheesy. “24 Hours” sounds so much 1986 that it feels like you’re in a time machine, a little dated but an ok song, “On The Radio” is just forgettable, “Just Friends” is very cheesy, but a good song where Hank duets with the brilliant Minnah Karlsson – what a voice! – and the album ends with an awful pop song called “Believe” – it actually sounds as if they have tried to re-write “I’m So Excited” by The Pointer Sisters…

Although Houston consists of very good musicians and the album has a great production and great arrangements, I can’t help but feel that something is missing here. There are some really good songs, but most of them are forgettable and in my book, if AOR is gonna to work properly, it needs something that grabs you, that sticks out. It doesn’t have to be all original, but it needs an identity and some AOR diehards might beg to differ, but I don’t hear an identity here. To my ears, this could be any AOR band out there and that is fatal when it comes to music and especially with AOR. I also want my music to be powerful (yes, AOR can be powerful), but the whole sound scape is too cheesy here. I say that this is a decent album, but I really need more than this album has to offer. Houston, there just might be one bit of a problem anyway.

Jon Wilmenius (6/10)

Tracklist:

1. Glory
2. I’m Coming Home
3. Return My Heart
4. Talk To Me
5. Back To The Summer Of Love
6. 24 Hours
7. On The Radio
8. Losing
9. Just Friends
10. Believe

2 comments on “HOUSTON – II

  1. Well, a Boston review is coming up after the holidays. Be aware of the chainsaw.. 😉

    Yeah, this is very soft, but as I get older I’ve noticed that I opened up a lot to extremes that I have never liked before, both on the hard and agressive metal side and the other side of very soft and fluffy AOR and West Coast rock that bprders to pop.

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