Houndmouth album review: Good For You

“An undeniable sense of fortunes lost, former glory, and broken dreams”

Houndmouth wowed at Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo festivals, and on the Conan and Letterman talk shows. Now they’re launching their latest album, Good For You, during a relentless U.S. tour.

The title track, Good For You, opens the album. It’s languorous. We meander through old houses and racetracks of Kentucky, as the vignettes are coloured with falsetto and instrumental vibrato.

Miracle Mile is a jaunty little number, somewhat reminiscent of Better Than Ezra and Marcy Playground era pop-rock, but with a little Leaving On A Jetplane-esque melody tucked in for good measure.

Make It To Midnight generally has a World Party feel, but if you’re able to avoid getting Ooh La La stuck in your head after the chorus then you’re in luck!

It’s clear why McKenzie was a single. It sounds familiar from the opening seconds. ‘Dollar’ is stretched audibly as well as thematically in the lyric: “I like how you can make a dollar stretch a real long way.” Insistent percussion drives the song until the trip down memory lane fades out for good.

Cool Jam is sombre. The refrain “This lonely star/It don’t flame like it used to, honey/This love of ours/It don’t burn like it used to” rings out and settles right into your brain. It’s also informative. Throughout the record, we journey through the United States and here we learn that there’s a chain of convenience stores called Kum & Go. You learn something new every day!

Yet again, Jackson has a heady sense of instant familiarity. 70s rock cues dip in and out as with elsewhere on the record, but there’s a fair hint of Gin Blossoms too.

Goodbye makes its case as the closing song for the live set, where the keys could really ring out for a Faces style knees up singalong.

Ohio has a similar feel to Cool Jam, as the people and places are downbeat and are aware of something lost: “I can almost hear her say ‘The times were good/’til the time they went away.” This takes place on Baker Street, of course.

The band’s latest single, Las Vegas, mines Springsteen’s Thunder Road style bittersweet nostalgia: “maybe you can get a lift from the uptown boys you used to run with.” Yet it hits like a vibrant live-ready track by Arkells, especially as the foot-stomping chorus pays off.

The record offers brief snapshots of contemporary American lives, like watching a TV where the channels keep changing. We don’t linger or go deep but we get an undeniable sense of fortunes lost, former glory, and broken dreams. Musically, Good For You certainly wears its influences on its sleeve, and everything resembles a well-known classic with modern production values and influences.

A sense of nostalgia was imbued in the album. It came to life in The Green House which was built in 1857 (making it practically ancient in America) and decorated with gold wallpaper and crystal chandeliers. It once belonged to drummer Shane Cody’s grandparents, and plays hosts to many of their live videos, including their recent performance for CBS Saturday Morning.

Good For You is out now in Dualtone Records. It was recorded with Brad Cook (Waxahatchee, Hiss Golden Messenger) and mixed by Jon Ashley (The War On Drugs, B.J. Barham).

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