Text: Paul van der Zalm
Today’s release of a new Deaf Havana album may come as a surprise. After all, the British band collapsed in 2020, with the corona epidemic as the final blow. So the recording of 2019’s Live at Brixton Academy turned out to be both a temporary high point and the conclusion to a period of about 10 years. If there is now a follow-up to the fifth studio album Rituals, it is mainly thanks to Matty Veck-Gilodi, who kept working on new songs and managed to convince his older brother James, a member of the band since the very beginning, to resurrect Deaf Havana, but now as a duo, with the help of producer Mike Horner (Hot Chip, Jess Glynne, Yonaka).
James was an important part of the transition from rock to pop on Rituals and the single “Kids” is in that sense a good bridge to this album, with a nice vocal arrangement. The nostalgic lyrics fit the theme of the album, but the song from which it is taken is remarkably called “… is a Foreign Land” and is a fast-paced track that builds to its climax. The rest of the songs are very emo; the rhymes are sometimes a little simple, but the lyrics are personal: “Going Clear”, for example, is about James’ addiction problems. The simplicity is enhanced by the full, overplayed production. Musically, the album is a bit ambiguous: on the one hand, they go for the heavy sound, with a lot of dynamics and drama, and on the other hand, the brothers regularly sound like a two-person boys band (with autotune), or like Twenty One Pilots in the short but authentic opening track “Pocari Sweat” or like Ed Sheeran in the emo ballad “Nevermind”.
Not everything is original, but the experienced men know how to make a good song, as they prove with “Trying/Falling”, with a nice string arrangement as well as a vocal one. The song “Someone/Somewhere”, based on a dance rhythm, is also a nice surprise. The brothers are assisted by IDER, a London-based singer-songwriter duo consisting of Megan Markwick and Lily Somerville; a collaboration that tastes like more. Time will answer the question asked in the gospel closing track “(How Will You) Remember Me?”
SO Recordings / Mattan records
Want to know more about the making of this album? Check out this interview by Rock Sound on YouTube: