I Can See Mountains - Life on a Houseboat | Album Review | By Volume

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I Can See Mountains

Life on a Houseboat

I’m well aware I’m jaded.

Comments (1)
Author: on July 19, 2013
Panic Records
July 2, 2013

I’m well aware I’m fucking jaded; a product of six years’ music writing and many more generally overthinking, my music tastes have evolved to take on unnecessary adaptations in the same way that we think we need new mobile devices just because they’re better than the previous model. Because I sometimes tire of that over-analysis and the complexity that plays to it, pop-punk bands occasionally have one task, and once they’re past that hurdle, they’re on the inside, playing off base instincts in a way that few other things and people and ideas get the opportunity to.

It’s strange how I Can See Mountains hardly stray from a bunch of traits that can easily grate, but then I find pop-punk’s make-or-break details to lie in things that are simultaneously minor intricacies and major philosophy signposts. The relationship with originality is rarely more fragile than with a band that sounds like hundreds you grew up with, so it falls to the tiny personality indicators to define your relationship, which is almost always a question of sincerity. If we believe these simple pop songs’ spirit is real, we can fall hard; if we don’t, we’re repulsed, and violently so.

These caveats provided, Life on a Houseboat takes on all comers. Motifs rock back and forth even within its runtime, and ideas do so even more obviously, but there’s such an endearing lilt to the band’s song structures that it’s wholly compelling to hear in its many moulds and contexts. Penultimate track “One Big Table” begins akin to a hackneyed pop-punk-album-slow-song picked guitar, but its first verse is punctuated vitally by distant, emotional shouts, and the simple chorus barges in unannounced and faintly drunken. “You’re lying through your teeth, now say hello,” feels like the very spirit of camaraderie, the same way “Can’t believe that you wanted to leave!” sounds the essence of bewildered and hurt.

Why? I’m not sure. The Wonder Years-esque production doesn’t hurt, which is ironic, of a fashion, but when the drums are tactile and heavy (in weight, not intensity) like this, it belies rational dissection. And opener “One Mirror, Two Bodies” starts entirely in its own middle, still confusing me as to whether my copy of the record is missing its first twenty seconds (man, I sure hope not, now) – these heartfelt stumbling blocks are, strangely, the factors upon which trust is constructed. But mostly it’s the fluid nature of I Can See Mountains that arrests my attention on an almost constant basis. When the melody slips, the rhythm directs proceedings; when the rhythm flounders, the texture holds the torch; when the texture drops out, the words are that intelligent brand of simple that makes it easy to almost-think.

“Jackie says, ‘Monuments’, are lucky ’cause they can stay forever.'” launches the closing track’s anthemic bridge. I do, genuinely, think about this line. Overwrought as it may make me look and feel, I wrote a review of Jimmy Eat World’s latest record in June and the process of coming to terms with it affected me in a way I didn’t know music writing could. But in light of that experience, I think it’s worth it to acknowledge that a tonne of people have an immensely strong connection to music this simple and direct and fist-clenchable, even those who often feel, argue or worry that they have grown past it. Where many people attach this sense of nostalgia to specific bands, I’m moving towards a place where pop-punk’s connection to me is a new kind of ideological, and I Can See Mountains fit there perfectly.

Which is to say that Life on a Houseboat does everything that it needs to, which is to say in turn that it does more than what it needs to, whilst absolutely nailing the fundamental tenets: that swirl of rising choruses, a myriad of one-liners, and a fine aesthetic line between rough and smooth. It’s guitar-driven pop music, and I mean, whatever: these descriptions are never going to feel like comfortable arguments alongside a staff praising subtlety, social nous and experimentalism. Some days they don’t feel right in my head. But it’s encouraging to find that there is still a band and a mentality that can make the oldest music (in terms of a life’s span, as opposed to a world’s history) sound new, vital, and evoke the naivety before the jaded shadow.

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  • Rudy Klapper

    oh man tracklistings that you can play i likeee


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