The Old Haunts’ music is a bit disconcerting if only for vocalist Craig Extine, who makes me want to clap my hands and say yeah (and, really, how many times have you heard that comment used literally in the last year?). Luckily, the garage-rock band from Olympia is otherwise distinct enough to avoid joining Brooklyn’s love parade, and all that the two really have in common is what sounds like a constant yelp of pain. Honestly, guys: Would it hurt to put a little puberty into your wailing?
Criticism aside, Fuel on Fire is being released only a year after the Old Haunts’ full-length debut, Fallow Field. And just as with Fallow Field, there is enough cohesion among songs (read: like one, like ’em all) that it would be safe to assume the band members aren’t going to stray from what defines them anytime soon.
Fuel on Fire is less lo-fi and much tighter than Fallow Field, and a lot of that can be blamed on the drumming. The band’s 2005 album had actually been recorded on three separate occasions with three separate drummers; this time, (original) drummer Curtis James supports the entire record. He does a quality job, too. Fallow Field saw its only real shift between the aggressively rough “It’s So Scandalous” and the piano-laden, sadly accessible “The Old World.” The shift occurred when the distinctly punk drumming of Danny Sasaki made way for the steadier high-hat ride of Natalie Cox, who had recorded with the band prior to Sasaki.
On the new album, James doesn’t appear to have a distinct musical background, but he acts as a stable, balanced rock drummer who makes better use of his bass drum than Cox had at one point. And although there aren’t any standout tracks on Fuel on Fire, in the way that “Deflect It” and “It’s So Scandalous” had respectively given Fallow Field a swinging guitar hook or mini-jam session, this one really is much more consistent and listenable as an entire record. This is the album you’ll want to buy on vinyl so you’re forced to sit and listen while each side runs its course.
Even so, the Old Haunts won’t realistically benefit from hype anytime soon, nor do I imagine these guys will have more than a three-album career, if their redundancy is any indication. But that redundancy is well-called for — this is an unpretentious rock ‘n’ roll band, and even if Extine’s excessive howling (or saying “yeah” — whatever you want to call it) weeds out some potential fans, the Old Haunts have enough of a timeless quality. Consider Fuel on Fire their part two.
“Out of Sight” MP3 (off the ‘Second’ EP)
“Poison Control” MP3 (off ‘Fallow Field’)
“Wasted Day” MP3 (off ‘Fuel on Fire’)Kill Rock Stars Web site