REVIEW: Indie-Music.com, 2001
(Poetic Wax Records)
Wow, does this one take me back. While sounding completely modern, Alan Houser has the same qualities that made 80's icons U2, OMD, Depeche Mode, INXS and New Order critical and mass favorites - an impeccable sense of songwriting style, awesome vocal talent, and ability to write "hits" all over studio albums. And he has balls... big ones. In my history, I've only heard one group ever cover a U2 song and not completely rape the soul out of it - which Houser manages to keep intact on his version of "All I Want Is You", a now Gen-X classic thanks to its inclusion in the Reality Bites soundtrack.
Beyond those characteristics there's bit more lurking in the Houser arsenal. The songs contained on Flashlight Tag have an ethereal, timeless quality about them, edging him into the songwriting realm of Frank Black, specifically, and sparking a few comparison here and there to the days of the Pixies. Especially on "Ephesians 514", which could serve as a wonderful additive B-side track to "Wave of Mutilation". And whether the comparison has been made or not before this, I detect a bit of the visionary approach that the late Michael Hutchence invested in his own unique sound - a lot of soul, experimental rhythm and guitar lines, and the embracement of electronic gadgets to fill out the gaps that traditional instruments can't quite muster. This is evident on tracks like "New Orleans", "On Your Shoulders", and "Crickets on Kessler", where Houser exhibits that same vocal ease as Hutchence and indie veteran singer-songwriter Mark Eitzel, formerly of American Music Club.
"See Through", the first track on the disc, and an excellent choice for introducing the listener to his sound, is a fully realized single and I'd be shocked if this one wasn't picked up, given wider exposure, by Triple AAA and Modern Pop/Rock stations. There's an accessibility to this music that manages to avoid sounding formulaic and overtreated in the production phase. There's an obviously large amount of work going into this record in the mixing phase, and would be interesting to see how the loops, and preprogrammed elements translate live, but for a studio album, and Houser's debut disc, this is an impressive start. Solid songwriting combined with creative packaging of material and imagery makes this a wonderful album for many occasions and provides a great mood and timbre to sit and dream by. And for those of you who don't punch through the disc and let the ride unfold, you'll be equally as happy with the hidden track at the end, a beautiful and dreamy song that puts you in a slumber.
Get agreeably lost in Alan Houser's head.