The Australian rock scene is a pretty special place to be in 2018. Spearheaded by the incredible success of metalcore titans Parkway Drive, loads of artists have branched out and seized success in the UK and US. We’ve had some great things come out of this crossover too- and Hands Like Houses have been one of them. The Canberran quintet never felt satisfied with the ordinary, and throughout their previous three records have experimented away, blending a mainstream rock sound with a range of creative compositions and elements. The highlight of their work was almost definitely their 2013 sophomore effort Unimagine- but all of their albums have been quality creative pieces of work- and I can’t help but be impressed by that.
Considering everything I know about the band, my expectations were pretty high for this record. And while I don’t think it’s their most daring album, I’m certainly quite pleased with what I’ve heard from them here. Anon. is certainly one of their most commercially-minded albums- and to be honest, that’s okay with me. They’ve still retained a little of their experimental edge, but combined it with a nice bit of pop sensibility- soaring choruses, thumping bass, and an emphasis on melody. It might not be the most experimental album they’ve ever made, but you have to praise the band’s eye for a melody and a chorus here.
Alongside some of these great musical touches, there’s some incredible songs here as well. The screams on ‘Black’ are absolutely hair-raising, showing that the band can still absolutely turn things up when they need to. On the other hand, ‘Through Glass’ is one of the poppiest songs in the band’s discography- and despite its unnerving similarity to The 1975’s ‘Somebody Else’, I feel like it’s a fairly solid song. And even in the dullest moments musically here, the band can still shine, singing ‘it ain’t weakness to open up and reach for help’. I feel like everyone needs to hear that sometimes.
Many fans will criticise this album for being ‘too poppy’, or ‘too commercial’, but I think that’s only a weakness if the music suffers for it. Has the band’s style changed? Almost certainly, but they sound just as good- almost like a whole different group of people at times, and I can’t praise them enough for the change. It was brave, it was risky, but musically, it definitely paid off.
Best songs: Black, Through Glass