Home > TheRest > The Old Haunts – Poisonous Times

The Old Haunts – Poisonous Times

Kill Rock Stars, 2008

I had heard the excellent song “By the Bay” on the Old Haunts’ debut record and thought they showed promise as an kind of neurotic rock band, though when I heard the rest of the record I was kind of turned off by neurosis overload.  So I took a break.  Not long ago this killer, film noir cover beckoned me to give them another try.  I’m not sure what sailboat sails have to do with anything, but the gloominess got me thinking that these guys might have put out a good one.

The Old Haunts specialize in a kind of garage rock, yet make aims to sound much more creative than the typical garage band.  Think of them as a group that can reveal their raw edges while dabbling with musical intricacies found in many of the more precocious indie bands of today.  That’s not to say these guys are unbearably modern and routine, for they mix up their approach often enough to make a spin through of this record rather interesting.  Rather, the Old Haunts seem to step up from where the old White Stripes left off and can be considered as a small piece of evolution from the garage rock genre.

For me, the make or break aspect of any indie band can be the vocalist.  Craig Extine’s voice reminds me of the vocals of Isaac Brock from Modest Mouse, so if you don’t mind a little grumbling haywire then you might appreciate Extine’s approach.  However, if you want some of that smooth, pretty stuff then Extine will upset you.  Thankfully the band holds up some interest in the music department, even if it can vary widely between a catchy pop sequence in “Volatile” or a more scattered (if not drunken) presentation in “Sister City”.  The best song on the record could be “Hurricane Eyes” which has a truly engaging, quick-paced riff throughout the song while Extine keeps his vocal fluctuations in control for the most part.  His emotional escalation during the chorus when he describes someone’s turbulent yet thought-clearing oculars is convincing.

With such fine kicks from “Eyes” and the following track of “Ruined View”, it is a bit of a letdown when the band decides to get soft and slow in “Sunshine”.  Apparently it’s a song about Extine’s appreciation of the calming effect of weather, which I guess he just had to get out there.  The band correctly picks things up from there with the bouncing “Not Hopeless”, which has Extine sounding a lot like a strained version of the Stripes’ Jack White.  However, even after a good build up tune in “Knives On the Mind”, the last two tracks are full of sludge.  I guess there really is a point when a band doesn’t have enough energy left to pull out a few more interesting songs, for these two tunes end the record as an unexpected downer duo.

Check out the Old Haunts on their website, MySpace or Pandora station.

What I like about the Old Haunts is that their sound fits my style yet they don’t fall into predictability.  What I don’t like about the Old Haunts, I guess, is the fact that 33% of the songs on this record veered headlong towards too much quiet.  Granted, the Old Haunts were primarily a loud and crashing rock band a few albums ago (as evidenced by “Poison Control“), so I guess this personal ballad stuff is progress.  (shrug)  It seems that the Old Haunts are going to be around for awhile longer so if you check them out and dig their sound, I’m sure they’ll be coming by to a club by you sometime soon.  It’s a pity that Tobi Vail (Bikini Kill), the drummer on this record, is no longer with the Old Haunts after going one-and-done with them.  Time will tell if they’ve got another “Hurricane Eyes” in them without her.

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