Dave Hause has come a long way from screaming his face off in Philadelphia hardcore band the Curse and humping amps for the likes of the Bouncing Souls and Kid Dynamite. After a sideman stint in ex-KD unit Paint It Black, Hause left to dedicate himself to his own franchise. The Loved Ones were steeped more in Rick Springfield power-pop and Philly bands like Flight of Mavis. With considerably less shouting in the mix, the trio got a lot of attention for their eponymous debut EP. And rightfully so: sporting more hooks than a tackle box, and with the added cachet of being released on respected pop-punk stalwart Fat Wreck Records, Hause and the Loved Ones showed great promise.
Two full-lengths and an EP followed on Fat Wreck, each release bringing the Loved Ones more and more to the forefront. Punk rock was keeping the lights on, but the last EP release, entitled Distractions, proved to be a telling harbinger of where Hause was headed. While the opening three tracks were indicative of contemporary The Loved Ones fare, the closing three tracks were covers of Springsteen, Joe Strummer, and Billy Bragg. Soon afterward, Hause announced plans to release a solo record called Resolutions on Paper & Plastick. A series of 7” releases on a myriad of labels followed, each steeped more and more in the raiment of Americana.
Devour is the first Dave Hause release for Rise Records. It would appear that there has been a sea change interpersonally for our hero. Such fodder has made for great records as long as there have been records, and Devour is no exception. Hause has taken the Adam Duritz/Ryan Adams path and put himself together quite the little song cycle. The 12 tracks here are steeped in loss and prospective renewal, with a healthy dose of introspection on the American Dream in the 21st Century.
The opening “Damascus” welcomes everyone literally and figuratively to the proceedings, with keening, ghostly vocals and a smattering of steel guitar that builds to a textbook rock ending before “The Great Depression” throws down the populist gauntlet, reminiscing about growing up in suburbia and moving into the working class in the wake of the collapse of the domestic economy. Lyrically, the track is a little heavy on the pop culture for this old chunk of coal, but that’s a cheap shot given the topical nature of the tune.
That grumbled, any ambivalence about Devour falls by the wayside by the time “We Could Be Kings” steps up in the track three slot. This one’s the banger, the type that Hause has made his name on, with big, big hooks that would certainly blow up radio if such a thing was still relevant in the 21st century. It’s an altogether great tune with a David Lindley-esque slide lick on the tail that spikes the ’90s Jackson Browne vibe.
Hause is good with a rocker, and could probably churn out enough “We Could Be Kings”-type fare in that vein to pad Devour out to almost guaranteed critical acclaim. Tracks like “Before” and “The Shine” do yeoman duty in that regard, but he takes a couple of engaging steps outside the box that separate him from the pack. “Same Disease” takes things in a Dion direction, adding a greaser shuffle vibe to the proceedings along with great backing vocals. Bricks handles the acoustic role, stripping things down toward the end of things and setting up the uptempo Counting Crows-esque closer “Benediction” nicely.
Devour has an air of craft and a deft sense of arrangement that will appeal to those tired of the Gaslit mediocre sleeve tattoo music currently purveyed by world-weary 20-something rock stars of today.Devour is a fine piece of a work and a definite high water mark of the Dave Hause canon, distilling his pop tendencies into sweetly strong Americana moonshine that will no doubt trouble both the upper reaches of the charts and many an end-of-year Best Of list.