Canberran five piece Hands Like Houses are back for their fourth studio album -Anon. and they’ve well and truly belted it out of the park this time. In the lead up to the release, the band’s single “Monster” has been used by the WWE on their Australian tour; a very trivial fact, but a testament to the sort of recognition Hands Like Houses are (and deserve to be) receiving.
As time has passed, the band have branched further and further into uncharted territory and on -Anon. I think they’ve found a nice middle ground between creative freedom and popular sonic choices. Guitarist Alex Pearson explained that their experimentation and expansion came from being off of the road for the most time since writing their debut album Ground Dweller. The band felt less restricted and pressured which has resulted in their most unique and ambitious release to date.
The album is built around shared human experience, with each song having its own atmosphere and story. Elements like fatalism, politics, personal struggle join those like hyper-realism and fantasy to make a monument of thought come to life. -Anon. is a release I’m very impressed with, and by the reaction Hands Like Houses have been getting, it’s not hard to see why.
I felt like album opener “Kingdom Come” was a relatively docile song. It has a really fun build up that I find rather reminiscent to Skillet, but quickly plateaus. The metronome, clapping-like drum beat hinders the song from peaking as it never falters. It feels like the entire song is building up for this grand release, but it never comes. I found myself singing along and nodding my head but around the two-minute mark, I couldn’t help feeling like the song deserved a crashing climax. I’m not too weighed down by this as the album only rises from there.
“Monster”, the bands second single, is a real power song and one I was much more receptive to. The whistling ‘woo woos’ strike a chord similar to The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” and I loved that. This is a feel good, rock tune that warrants a real crowd sing-along. The theme of the demon inside and Trenton being able to “feel it comin’ alive” is a very cool concept. We all have our monsters inside, whether yours is as cool as the one Hands Like Houses sing about or not, it’s hard to keep them at bay while hearing “Monster”.
The idea behind -Anon. is very thought provoking as Hands Like Houses have almost tried to reinvent themselves with this release. By putting more time into the writing process and allowing each song to stand alone, they’ve opened the door for new fans to come and start their journey with -Anon. The idea of an album being signed off with an anonymous credit – to see how much critical success the music could gain on its own merit – is like the thoughts we’ve all shared about products of consumerism. Would a Nike product sell the same number of units if it wasn’t labelled with the trademark swoosh?
It reminds me of Richard Bachman, a horror author in the 70s who rose to fame for his novels. After some time of fame people began to recognise his style and attributed it to the works of Stephen King, eventually King came out as the identity behind Bachman and the mystery was solved. He did it to see if his writing was truly beloved or if it was just his name that sold books. It’s clear to see here that Hands Like Houses are authors of their own good music, anonymously or not.
“Sick” continues to push the listener uphill into this world of self-reflection and confusion. “I don’t recognise myself”: The words linger with us. The chord struck with me is similar to that of “Monster”, something is permeating inside and it’s unfamiliar. To me, “Overthinking” can fit in nicely with these songs as well. It tells the obvious story of overthinking, but it shows how destructive these internal dialogues and mind-games can be. They could feed into the monster within and cause us to lose touch with the person looking back in the mirror. The trio of songs really complement one another, giving a nice rise and fall with tone and exploring introspective ideas.
“Through Glass” takes a break from the heavy rock sounds we’ve been hearing in favour of a more soft, caring sound. Vocalist Trenton Woodley really shows us his chops here and demonstrates his talent, with or without anonymity. “It’s like a wildfire growing between my head and heart”, is a line that really stuck with me, poetically written and effortlessly performed. This is a song that really will appeal to a wide range of people and I see having large commercial success; success Hands Like Houses have earned.
In the track “Half-Hearted”, a personal favourite, I can hear some real Nine Inch Nails grunge guitar tones and I love it. It’s an industrial sound that only just sticks its nose out in any otherwise emotional alt-rock track. We hear some pain, I don’t know how factual it is, but it is definitely a relatable, raw sensation that listeners could grasp. “Pull me together and tear me apart” echoes in my brain along with the gritty strings we hear.
-Anon. continues to go strong as it well and truly passes the half-way mark. “No Man’s Land” preaches the effects and pain caused by suicide. Mental health is no joke and I have a lot of respect for Hands Like Houses for voicing the concerns of suffering people. It’s not weak to reach out for help. This song, musically, wasn’t the best from the album but its message is so important and so well-put that I can’t argue with it being on -Anon.
“Black” is back, or are they back in black? I couldn’t resist a bad rock pun sorry. “Black” has that same full, grunge sound that I loved so much in “Half-Hearted”. It really lends impact to the words, when we hear “I’ve had enough”, it’s definitely not a fact I find hard to believe. Hands Like Houses really let go at the end of “Black”, I won’t give away too much but make sure you’re not carrying anything fragile when the mood drops.
We’re led into “Tilt” – after the heavy, wild sounds we were left with in “Black” – by similar crunching musical strikes. This track is going to go absolutely nuts live and I hope I’m present to be a part of it all. “Tilt” features a catchy chorus that is one of the better songs to sing along on -Anon. but I don’t have much more to say about it than that. The riffs are killer, and it leaves the listener ready for the final track.
“Bad Dream” is far from bad, it’s in my top three on the album and it’s yet another song I am excited to see live. The percussion from drummer Matt Parkitny is impressive. Coming from my disappointment on the opening track to “Bad Dream”, Matt’s work has made the track my favourite part of the album. The track mixes some fun riffs, catchy lyrics, crazy drums with the tracklisting’s final placement to create a perfect finale to -Anon.
With -Anon. being my first full Hands Like Houses release, I can definitely vouch for the band and say it is an easy (and fantastic) place for any fan to start and they have accomplished the stand-alone vibe they hoped to with the idea of anonymity. The album is a rollercoaster from start to finish and has really fun songs to unpack if you’re wanting to delve deeper. If you don’t like investigating music, just enjoy the rough, fun sounds and let yourself get lost. -Anon. is almost flawless in its efforts and I have yet to review an album with a better feel of track placement, the songs rise to an ultimate climax and then crash to a grand finale. I can’t wait to catch Hands Like Houses live and see some of these stellar songs performed.
Hands Like Houses are Trenton Woodley (vocals), Alexander Pearson (guitar), Joel Tyrrell (bass), Matthew Parkitny (drums), and Matt “Coops” Cooper (guitar). -Anon. releases on 12th October and can be preordered from: 24hundred.net & iTunes.
Incredible production. Inviting sound. Broad range for fanbase. Well positioned tracklisting for ultimate mood build. Short and sweet.
Wasted opportunity with the opening track. Some songs feel a little more throwaway than others but they all sound good.