Half-Hearted Hero – Running Water (12″ EP)

Running Water coverNew Bedford, Massachusset’s Half-Hearted Hero are described as influenced by A New Found Glory, Small Brown Bike, The Starting Line, NOFX, Living With Lions, Punchline and The Fullblast. Some of that I can see more than others; they’re somewhere between the bro-happy speed and whimsy of ANFG and the po-faced mid-pace melodic mastery of Small Brown Bike, and I’d say that a contemporary reference point might be Transit (reviewed here) or Handguns (reviewed here).

I didn’t get along hugely well with either Transit or Handguns; they fall into the category of bands who I feel do what they do well enough but I don’t find it personally resonant, and without that their competent, slick melodic punk rock sounds an awful lot like the many other competent, slick melodic punk rock bands out there. On the other hand I’m reminded of Polar Bear Club too, although Half-Hearted Hero rarely seem to take a moment to slow things down and unpack their songs, preferring instead to forge ahead full-tilt.

There’s something indefinable in the air here (or the water, ha ha do you get it), though, that makes me suspect I would’ve liked Half-Hearted Hero more when I was younger. This, I suspect, is down to their lyrics. Their songs often seem potentially interesting lyrically, but at the same time I have to admit that they tend to deploy fairly common imagery derived from lived experience but without overt hints as to meaning. The end result of that, with lyrics and images that you’ve come across so many times before, is that you end up with an impressionistic patchwork of half-remembered things rather than a cohesive sense of what a song is about. This is, in fairness, true of many bands.

Take ‘Periphery’: here we see a couple of vocalists, one with a touch of grit to his vocal chords, and neat lines like “the way the syntax rose and fell”. And yet the song ends with the refrain “you’ll never be alone / unless you have your doubts”, which is not exactly the sort of thing that will endure in your memory – unless this happens to be one of the first songs in which you hear such a phrase.

But then, but then. Here’s a little insight into my reviewing process: I listen to records a whole bunch of times (six or seven times in this case) and take notes whenever something occurs to me. And on one listen I paused the record right before ‘Mirrors’, and went off somewhere, and read something that made me angry (about feminism and racism, should you care, but that’s not relevant to this review). And coming back to resume listening to Running Water, specifically to the song ‘Mirrors’, the emotional inflammation caused by that anger has triggered something that makes the song work for me. All of a sudden it’s hitting the emotional notes that it should.

But then. I think back over the song and nothing really comes to me. Nothing had real impact, real punch. It was just the soundtrack to an emotional state. But of course, that’s a big part of being young, right?

Therefore I reserve the right to like these songs or be utterly indifferent to them at any given time. So here I am, having a conversation with myself about that ambivalence. Whether you think I’m deconstructing music reviewing or engaging in masturbation, I hope you manage to take something from this reading experience. Ideally, it will be whether or not Half-Hearted Hero are a band for you. They’re a band for someone, that’s for sure; not one of the greats, but good enough to sync with your life and your feelings for at least a little while.

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  1. […] my ambivalence toward the slick melodic sounds of Half-Hearted Hero, it’s refreshing to be able to write about […]