There are two overly weak aspects of Hawthorne Heights’ If Only You Were Lonely, and they are the same two elements that plagued their high selling The Silence in Black and White. Lyrically, Hawthorne Heights needs a lot of work to pass up the post-hardcore clichés of their predecessors in their own songwriting, and they need to do something more profound with their triad of guitars. When you have three people playing the same instrument and a bassist to add to the mix, we need something more complex than a flourish or a little reverb here and there to accent the lead guitar. Any metal or hardcore band worth their salt can play something similar with one guitarist and a bassist; the band has a huge opportunity to make grippingly corrosive music to curl your toes, the likes of which modern music has not seen. Instead, The Fully Down (who also have three guitarists) put Hawthorne Heights to shame in that department.
“Saying Sorry” is the lead single from the new CD, and on that particular song, they have just about ditched the screaming altogether. At the risk of being crucified, I have to say the song is damn catchy, despite the atrociously repetitive lyrics. It’s not exactly technical, but the guitar riffs are burgeoning yet a bit too simplistic for a band with three different people playing the same instrument. JT Woodruff’s near-falsetto vocals are impassioned, but it doesn’t take long for the mind-numbing repetition of “Saying goodbye, this time, the same old story/saying goodbye, makes me feel like saying sorry” to make you contemplate eating a bullet. However, it has just enough punch to it for the “cut my wrists and black my eyes” crowd who have helped push The Silence in Black and White nearly to platinum status to eat it up. It might be the most commercial track on the album, and thus is the logical choice for lead single. I enjoy (yes, it is the truth) the bass-guided “This Is Who We Are” and the toe-tapping “Language Lessons.” This band can write a heck of a made-for-MTV single, and to tell you the truth, that may be their calling.
The amusingly titled “Where Can I Stab Myself in the Ears?” derives its power from the deep, sludgy riff, but it does lack something in the hook. The scattered drumming also seems out of place, but the lyrics (again, the chorus is excessively prevalent) are solid. One of the biggest problems with this album is the songs that serve as filler. “Light Sleeper” does not really bring anything new to the table, and it blends it pretty well instrumentally with “Pens and Needles” (although the vocals are a far sight better on the latter).
The brooding ballad “Decembers” closes If Only You Were Lonely, and it probably has the best imagery and lyrics on the entire CD. It cannot save the album from a less than average grade, but it does prove to the world that the band has some definite potential in the future. I believe if Hawthorne Heights throw some musical complexity into their songs, and they strive to write less clichéd lyrics, they might have a solid third album in the cards. They have at least three bona-fide singles on tap for the world to hear, and this album is much more accessible to the people who loathed their last one. They have minimized the screaming, which is the first step toward a Hawthorne Heights that even I can enjoy listening to on a semi-regular basis. If you were a fan of their first album, go buy If Only You Were Lonely. It is solid progress. If not, you may want to give this a listen before you consider purchasing the CD. It tends to grow on you a bit, but there are still flaws. The band is not all there yet, but the situation is right for their career to take off in the mainstream arena. Hawthorne Heights will be this year’s My Chemical Romance, just you wait and see.