We've all been waiting for the next big British band to explode onto the American rock scene. Esteemed critics made us believe that Starsailor, the Doves, or Elbow would sweep America just as Oasis, Radiohead and Blur had. But instead of a big hoopla came a brief hoorah, which was followed by bigger, more lasting hoorahs for the other hyped scene right now -- Brooklyn's.
But back to the point. Who is the leading candidate to be the next big British band? After seeing Haven live, I was ready to tell everyone to unroll the Queen's flag and get ready for the Johnny Marr-produced rock quartet to jumpstart the new British revival. Their debut, Between the Senses, garnered critical praise, but their big boom has yet to come. If their record was anywhere near as good as their live show, we'd all be eating fish and chips on the way to the football match.
Sadly, no such luck. The difference between Haven recorded and Haven live is as drastic as the difference between listening to Amnesiac on your MP3 player and hearing Thom Yorke belt out the lyrics in concert. It just doesn't compare.
That said, Between the Senses still holds its own, and a lot of it has to do with lead singer Gary Briggs' sweetly melodic voice (think a slightly lower range than Thom Yorke) and the band's enticing guitar chords. "Let It Live" and "Say Something" are the kind of brokenhearted songs that make tears well up in those romantic rocker hearts. And, at the very least, the yearning and passion evoked in Haven's songs is easy to relate to.
The Radiohead comparison really kicks in with "Sleep", a quiet, moody ballad about insomnia. The song's tempo, like Gary's vocals, stay at a low steady hum. But unlike Radiohead, who would have invariably broken out into some massive guitar and drum explosion somewhere towards the end, Haven maintains the hum throughout the song, which characterizes the main difference between the two bands. Radiohead likes to change up the pace of their music with bouts of madness and Haven stays sincere and earnest, never breaking a sweat.
The dilemma as a listener is to decide whether that steadiness hurts or helps the song. Whether a song relaxes, energizes, or depresses, every song serves it's own purpose to each listener. But it seems to me that Haven is still trying fiddling around with what it is that makes them Haven, but they're coming along smashingly. Stellar songs like "Til the End" and "Where Is the Love" show the band's potential to be distinct. That maturity will come when the band learns to do the unexpected instead of heavily relying on Gary's stand-out vocals. The guitar, drums and bass don't hold back in their live show, and it'd be wise if they didn't hold back on the record, either.
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