Then I initially stumbled upon House of Heroes in October of 2008, it was a stream of the band's latest album at the time, The End Is Not The End. One listen to lead track "If," with its simple pop hook and Beatlesque harmonies and I was hooked: so much so that I made a rare full-album purchase on iTunes, as the album had not seen a hard release yet.
Once February arrived, the band had built enough momentum that Gotee Records bought the distribution rights from Mono Vs Stereo and released the album with a slight change in tracking. Being the completist I am, I bought my hard copy, and the album was firm in my in car playlist once again, with once minor change. Instead of listening as a set of singles, something new shined through as I listened to the album as a whole. More than just a set of randomly assembled songs, The End Is Not The End played out as a concept album about love, war and redemption, and House of Heroes took on a whole new sheen in my subconscious.
By the time the band's follow-up, Suburba, arrived in 2010, I was anxious to see what the band now had in store. What I go was a whole different kind of concept album. Although it did tie together lyrically in tales of suburban sprawl and the American dream falling short, Suburba played out in layers, becoming a sonic concept album of sorts: Queen stood next to Meatloaf, Beach Boys, Rick Springfield and Rage Against the Machine.
Clearly, this was no longer the pop-punk act that started out as Plan B in high school, then No Tagbacks as drummer Colin Rigsby joined guitarist/vocalist Tim Skipper and bassist A.J. Babcock. Even more interesting, however, was a conversation after the band's show at The Marquee in 2011, as we discussed the band's obsession with the new Foo Fighters album, Wasting Light, and desire to deliver something as visceral and straightforward while still appreciating the intricacies and subtleness of Muse.
It should have come as no surprise, then, the band's next album, Cold Hard Want, was the band's most rocking to date. What took me off guard, however, was melodic Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys harmonies of "A Man Who's Not Afraid", reaching a choral high before the album burst forth with a huge guitar riff and gut check that lasts throughout the course of the album.
Instead of sounding like a Foo Fighters knock-off, however, House of Heroes delivered its signature harmonies atop a wall of guitars that would make even Dave Grohl proud. Somewhere in there, the band managed to keep its pop sensibilities intact as well, delivering a summery up-tempo ballad, "We Were Giants" on one hand and enough pop-punk punch on "Dance (Blow It All Away)" to appeal to the teen audience alongside All Time Low and Fall Out Boy.
House of Heroes
If all of this sounds like something of a pop-rock mess, it is. And it isn't. On paper, it's arguably a train wreck, but in execution, House of Heroes delivered one of the best front-to-back pop/rock albums of the year in Cold Hard Want. Unfortunately for Tulsa, the band only made one stop here last year, opening for Relient K at Cain's Ballroom in the spring.
Considering the nature of digital outlets, album cycles have shortened, and by spring, Cold Hard Want had run its course. The band was also closing in on the end of its contract with Gotee Records and didn't want to lose momentum as summer arrived. As a result, the band dug into the vaults and put together a collection of b-sides, remixes, EP tracks and even a few unreleased cuts to put together The Knock Down Drag Outs, a compilation that doesn't summarize the band's career output so much as paint a picture of its growth and versatility.
Although it doesn't play out as strongly as the band's studio albums, the disc does show House of Heroes' acoustic side with four tracks from the band's Acoustic End EP, explain the Beatles harmonies with three tracks from a Beatles tribute, and puts the band's sense of humor on display with the band's Halloween single from 2011, "Lovesick Zombie."
More than anything, this is an album for loyal fans and completists and provides space for a few unreleased tracks like "Choose Your Blade" and "Hide," which don't fit on previous albums. Amidst all of that, however, the release serves a purpose beyond completing a record contract. It also gives the band an excuse to hit the road one more time before returning to the studio.
As such, House of Heroes kicks off its "Knock Down Drag Outs" summer tour on Thursday, June 6 in Nashville and makes a long overdue return to Tulsa this Friday, June 7 for a show at The Vanguard. It's not the band's first visit to town, but it is the group's first headline show on a Friday night, giving it an opportunity to reach a new Tulsa audience.
Over the course of the past three studio albums, House of Heroes has easily become one of my favorite and most respected pop/rock bands, but the group has done it with more than finely crafted studio magic. When the band hits the stage, it may not be quite as clean and polished, but it consistently delivers all of the pop hooks with enough rock flair to make the songs take on a different life with a live audience. And if you think the band can't deliver those Beatlesques harmonies live, think again.
House of Heroes has more than proven itself in the studio over its past three albums. Now, after a few prime spots on torus with Toby Mac and Relient K, House of Heroes is back and swinging hard on its own to prove itself in the live arena as well. If you're looking for one of the best pop/rock bands you've (likely) never heard of, don't miss House of Heroes at The Vanguard this Friday night, June 7. The bill also includes touring bands Come Wind and Beach Day as well as local openers Blank Tapes and SocietySociety. Tickets are $10 in advance or $13 at the door for one of the best rock shows of the week.
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