With the formal formation of his backing band, The Mermaid, Dave Hause has become more adventurous. Where 2016’s Bury Me in Philly felt transitional, Kick sounds like a musician who wants to see where he can reach. The singer-songwriter still channels the Americana of his peers Brian Fallon and Craig Finn perpetuate, but there’s more of an inclination towards a (slightly more) modern America than the Ferris wheels and classic cars that you’d probably expect from the former or the drug abuse as religious metaphor of the latter. Hause allows his work to be more bass-driven, as he reflects on finding some contentment in age and sobriety.
What’s most compelling about Kick is how Hause doesn’t necessarily rely on the outbursts of emotions that drive so much of his past records. While there’s still the rockin’ singer-songwriter acoustic guitars littered throughout the album, there’s a much more 80’s inspired bass-heavy motion that trudges the album forward. Songs like the nostalgic “Saboteurs” or the fittingly-titled “Warpaint,” put more emphasis on the instrument than the singer has in his solo work. There are still a number of full-fledged straightforward punk rock songs, like “The Ditch” or “Omg.” Above all, the singer’s more contemplative songs open and close the record, with songs that question the point of making art but also the reasons we keep doing it.
As with his previous albums, Hause offers his listeners enough catchy, lyrical phrases for them to latch onto: “If I can’t make it out of this ditch/I better make a home of it” or the even simpler “I used to be bold.” Hause’s occasional jabs at Trump don’t offer anything we haven’t heard before, but they’re sort of resigned in a way that’s still interesting: “Maybe we should have learned to shoot to kill/Instead of learning Van Halen songs.” Hause is a product of his Gen X upbringing, but he’s offering a very similar image of the Northeast in the same way that The Gaslight Anthem’s The 59 Sound or The Wonder Years’ Suburbia does.
For fans of Hause, this album feels like a return to the drive the fueled Resolutions and Devour with a touch of the sensitivity of Bury Me In Philly. Still, it feels like he’s lost a little bit of his edge. He’s still very good and catchy, but occasionally, he gets caught up in his sloganeering rather than relentlessly tearing at an itch.