Portland four-piece Hausu are a superb mess; a Frankenstein’s monster akin to the cover art on their debut record Total. The album wanders through an ocean of ‘90s-steeped grunge influences and is dominated by lengthy tracks that give the band ample space to experiment and incorporate various clashing musical elements within each song. The majority of Total is its own brand of textured noise rock, strongly reminiscent of the clangy loudness of Sonic Youth contrasted by the minimalist distortion of early Pavement. Post-hardcore in style, Recovery and John Codeine especially convey this discordant aesthetic, while slower song Tetsuo displays a more introspective lethargy.
Melancholic opener Chrysanthemum and, more notably, grunge-revival track Gardenia demonstrate the band’s potential for mournful musicality – the songs lingering in your brain for days after the first listen. Both tracks are distinguishable for the sweetness of their multi-layered melodies, which pierce through the engrossing darkness of the record. The lyrics of Gardenia’s addictive chorus ring through powerfully. “I don’t wanna talk about it anymore/I just wanna go back to sleep,” bellows frontman Ben Funkhouser in a mantric fashion. The vocals are resigned without being apathetic, dark but not depressive. In fact, overall the song is oddly uplifting despite its solemnity. These tracks also exhibit Funkhouser’s brooding, penetrative baritone voice. However, on rougher, post-punk tracks Vasari Joust and Kool Off, the frontman unleashes growling metal screams. These harsh vocals paired with the songs’ jarring melody lines ensure a rewarding yet cacophonous sound.
Total certainly recalls the disjointed experimentation and nihilistic ethos of the ‘90s while incorporating a strong use of Funkhouser’s unusual voice and genre-defying range. These factors, together with the album’s occasional poignant tunefulness, result in a gratifying record that will hopefully continue to appreciate over time.
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