Deaf Havana-Old Souls
Deaf Havana are a band deserving of considerable respect. Beginning life as an abrasive post-hardcore five-piece, following original frontman Ryan Mellor's decision to leave the band in 2010, the band not only had to make a 180 U-turn in terms of sound but guitarist/vocalist James Veck-Gilodi had to stand up as sole frontman. The process was well-documented as understandably not being that of an easy one and many of the frustrations preceding the release of 2011's triumphant Fools And Worthless Liars threatened to break the band in two. The fact then that not only on the eve of the release of Old Souls do Deaf Havana 3.0 stand as an unbelievably versatile six-man unit but as was begun on FAWL, in an industry where drama can overturn actual quality in terms of popularity, the music itself has been of a world-beating level, Veck-Gilodi standing firmly as one of the best singers and songwriters in the UK and this is conveyed in full fist in the air glory throughout Old Souls.
FAWL was a ball out of the park transformation into a melodic rock band that didn't quite sound like anybody else out there and Old Souls expands upon this with the now even more multi-faceted band bringing in all kinds of instruments and ideas but without ever sounding pompous, in fact the band sound so tight that you'd be mistaken that this incarnation of the band had been at it for years and could potentially take them to world-beating levels.
Moving opener Boston Square, a song written in tribute to Veck-Gilodi's much-missed friend Phil who is also included in much-loved fan-favourite Hunstanton Pier, feels like a mix between The Gaslight Anthem, The Who and something wholly their own and the diversity that follows presents them as one of the most multi-talented bands around. The brass that comes in during the finale of the brilliant Everybody's Dancing And I Want To Die feels natural and elevating or the folky/dusky/banjo-including rock n' soul of Subterranean Bullshit Blues feels daring, fresh and forward-thinking within a musical environment where potential festival headliners are regressing to overdone barebones styles in their songwriting for success rather than thinking outside the box. Saved is a delicate yet emotionally crushing musing upon an old friend and seeing the inevitable divide that can come in a friendship while Veck-Gilodi and new guitarist and brother Matthew Veck-Gilodi take on dual-vocals for Mildred that examines the other side of the same coin but more in the lyrical style of The Movielife or Taking Back Sunday. 22 is a mega hit in the waiting, think Biffy Clyro's Black Chandelier or Fall Out Boy's Sugar, We're Going Down or The Gaslight Anthem's The '59 Sound. On top of all of this, the album's finale Caro Padre is just heartbreaking in its sincerity, translating from the Italian for 'Dear Father' Veck-Gilodi tells the close to the bones truth of his relationship with his absent father and how all he can see within himself is him. As the band create an almost-soundscape around him it ends the album on an eye-opening emotional note and one that suggests that life really is something special if just accept that it can be.
Another thing that truly sticks are, of course, Veck-Gilodi's windswept lyrics that somewhere within always have a glimmer of hope, a light that's albeit at the end of a lengthy tunnel but one that's always going to be there. The album treads a fine line between the two throughout with the effects feeling uplifting but always real. Veck-Gilodi's feelings that he thought he saw his lost friend's "reflection in the window of a moving car" but that all he is "is wrong these days" in Boston Square are melancholic yet still retain hope in the image of the spirit of his friend still there alongside him in the area of Kings Lynn they used to skateboard together. On 22 he admits that despite being made to feel "this old at 22" he is deep down "somewhere between happy and ok". On Saved, upon reflection of a lost friendship, we feel a warm smile from him towards his old friend now at the end of their journey as he contemplates how his friend now has "a child of [their] own" and that "how [they've] grown" is what's really important and the climactic sad but accepting and wry smiles in the "it just feels like I lost a friend" from him and Matthew in Mildred reinforce this. Even further beautiful lines on nostalgia and where you stand in the present day in Tuesday People-"All those nights when you were happy or at least when you thought you were" against "at least the pain means you're alive" and "we'll keep holding on" hit like an emotional suckerpunch before Caro Padre explains that they'll always be problems within your background, character or hopes but it's the acceptance of such things that makes life such a beautiful thing.
Deaf Havana have outdone themselves on Old Souls and it's something that any fan of music, casual or devoted, should take notice of. This is a human album that helps put things into perspective, totally staggering.