Album Review: House Boat – “21st Century Breakroom”

House Boat is a pop punk supergroup that features current and former members of the Steinways, the Ergs!, Off With Their Heads, Short Attention, Dirt Bike Annie, Dear Landlord, Psyched to Die, Barrakuda McMurder, and at least a few dozen other bands. And that’s only with four members! You probably knew that already, but if you’ve somehow missed out on House Boat in the last few years then it’s important to know where these guys are coming from.

“21st Century Breakroom” is, to point out the extremely obvious, a nod to Green Day and their 2009 album “21st Century Breakdown.” In another nod to Green Day, the album’s title track is a multi-part song that runs for 9 minutes and 25 seconds. However, while the title and composition of the track are reminiscent of Green Day’s latter-day works, the actual music on “21st Century Breakroom” owes a great deal more to Green Day’s early material, particularly 1992’s “Kerplunk”.  Although it might just be easier to say that it sounds like House Boat.

That’s right, in spite of its Jesus of Suburbia-esque playtime, “21st Century Breakroom” actually sounds like a bunch of House Boat songs written in such a manner that they naturally flow together as one piece of art. Stylistically the band hasn’t changed much, the music is played fast, and guitarist / vocalist Grath Madden’s lyrics continue to reflect his sense of self deprecation and average Joe living (some gems include “I just want to get high and watch basketball games all night” and “My idea of fun is reading comic books and crying while I masturbate”). At one point around the four minute mark there’s even a blatant callback to the Steinways classic “((Holy Shit) I Can’t Believe I Still Don’t Have) A Girlfriend”.

While Grath is the most prominent vocalist in the band, the other guys in the group still get their turn at the mic. Drummer Mikey Erg gets in his verse during the hardcore segment about 5 and a half minutes into the track, while guitarist Zack Gontard is limited to harmonies and background vocals, and bassist Ace, who has gotten his fair share of spotlight on previous House Boat tracks, is seemingly absent in the vocal department (unless that’s also him screaming during the hardcore part, but it doesn’t really sound much like him).

Just after 8 minutes (and some change), the track begins to embark on its questionable fading out. Not only does choosing to fade out a song into oblivion bear the mark of laziness, but the song also begins to fade away while there’s still a full minute left. It’s a move that’s very unlike House Boat, as well as all of the bands that each member has been a part of, so what’s the deal with opting to use it now? To psyche out the listener, of course, as the song slowly creeps back to life after less than ten seconds of silence (only to then end not long afterward).

The second track on “21st Century Breakroom” is a much shorter song. At 31 seconds, “Suburban Grit” is House Boat’s shortest song (just beating out the 32 second “Every Day” from the band’s debut, “The Delaware Octopus”) and it plays like one of Grath’s songs with Short Attention. Or one could say that it also sounds like a song by the Steinways. Or you know, it just sounds like House Boat.

“21st Century Breakroom” is nothing like House Boat has done before, and yet everything about it screams “House Boat”. Let’s just leave it at that.


RIYL: The Steinways, The Ergs!, Short Attention, Green Day (circa 1992)

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