With Deathproof, Heart to Heart made their presence known to me. It was only three songs, but they were an incredibly good three songs, and accordingly I took note and waited patiently for the inevitable full-length to follow. It’s been months since then, and all I can do is look back with nostalgia glazed eyes and remember when I thought Heart to Heart’s self-titled would be good. Having listened to it now, I can confirm it’s not. While not a completely damnable release– it does in fact have some high points– it strays, perhaps decidedly, from what made Heart to Heart sound so good in the first place. Back with Deathproof, I thought they could’ve been the next Hot Water Music, but now it seems as if they’re content to be the next All Time Low.
Sonically, the key ingredients are all still in place– rough and clean vocals juxtaposed, thick power chords and arpeggio melodies battling for dominance– what has changed is the ratio. Heart to Heart has always been melodic, but this time around emo has been supplanted for a pop punk, almost easycore sense of melody. And unfortunately, it’s positively grating. It’s difficult not to cringe as the higher pitched singer nasally intones “you can be the reason summer changes,” in a sugary sweet ascending melody that sounds like something clipped from a Warped Tour mix. I understand bands change their sounds, embrace new influences, and just grow in general, and I probably could’ve lived with this new sound if the band wasn’t trying so hard to evoke the scream-your-lungs-out-in-a-basement brand of punk that they’ve departed so far from. The most glaring and obnoxious (not to mention insulting) attempt at capturing the aesthetic, is on the song “Life Preserver,” where after the song ends we’re treated to a sound clip of the singer out of breath. If Heart to Heart wants to be viewed as a passionate band that gives blood, sweat, and tears for their music they shouldn’t be leaning on absurd and superficial theatrics. Don’t tell us you’re giving it all, just give it all and be done with it.
Heart to Heart’s self-titled does have some moments that transcend the rest of it’s mediocrity. For example, the second half of the album is exponentially better than the first. When they let their hardcore side take the driver’s seat, the results are often astounding. “The Turn” is an example of this, with the verses showing off their lead singers bone-rattling scream. Unfortunately this is the highest point we get, as even though the second half is better, it’s still a mixed bag of good performance and fatal flaws. “Thanks for Everything” is an otherwise great song, with a strong hardcore influenced bridge, but is marred by trite lyrics like “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” “Stuck” remains hard to praise despite decent lyrics, melody, and instrumentation because of it’s plagiaristic opening, mimicking the Foo Fighters’ “Everlong”. “GV” changes the pace by being largely driven by acoustic guitar, but it comes off as a (somehow) more sentimental “Swing Life Away.”
Heart to Heart’s debut full length is an exercise in self-serious failure. Its lyrics are infested with cringe-inducing cliches and delivered with embarrassing earnestness. It wants to be a collection of hot-blooded punk rock anthems for the disillusioned twenty-something but it never comes close to delivering. Shallow songwriting, grating melodies, and punk rock posturing undo everything this record should have been; which is unfortunate, because Heart to Heart, despite everything I’ve said, is a talented band. Hopefully next time around they can remind us of that.