You could, if you so desired, see Dave Hause as a kind of Springsteen for the millennial generation.
Certainly, there’s a similarity occasionally. Not least on “Hazard Lights” a track that appears about halfway through “Drive It Like It’s Stolen”. There’s a power chord. There’s a stadium ready thing. There’s “The River” and “Born In The USA”. Then there’s the opening line: “I pulled over” sings Hause. “So you could puke in a ditch on the shoulder”. And before the opening verse is done there’s a suggestion that: “I listened to all your silly opinions on Jane’s Addiction” (I assume the silly opinion is that they’re any good?).
There’s only one conclusion: Dave Hause is back and he’s doing it his way.
This is his sixth album but he’s been making brilliant music for over a decade. Back in 2012 I came across his “Time Will Tell” EP. I went to see him play one night and you could see he meant it. Every word was real.
He was raw, back then. Almost punk rock. Now he’s older, more mature, maybe. And he’s making more expansive, ambitious records, but “….Stole It” is one of his most dystopian, unsettling albums.
“Cheap Seats (New Years Day, NYC 2042)” with all its electric pulse, is all those things, until Hause explodes, “take one last bite of this old rotten apple, and ride out to the country with me”.
But if that heralds better times, they aren’t on “Pedal Down”. Putting you in the middle of what might be an acid trip (although to be honest it’s not clear). Deliberately ambiguous, the emotions come roaring out as the narrator simply says: “What the fuck have we done?”.
The last time I saw him play, Hause played with Brian Fallon, and fans of Gaslight Anthem will find much to enjoy in “Damn Personal” and there’s the same kind of vibe about the ballad “Low”. Depression is writ large here (“my get up and go must’ve got up and went, like the elves quit the workshop inside of my head”) and if those two are “classic Hause” if you will, then “chainsaweyes” (sic) is anything but. Hause, his brother Tim (his longtime musical partner) and producer Will Hoge (a wonderful singer/songwriter in his own right) have created something special here. The clever use of strings underlines that
The title track is another unexpected turn. There’s an 80s pop thing going on (I had John Waite’s “Missing You” racing around my head) but there’s a bleak poetry in the words that is truly sensational.
“lashingout” (again lowercase is deliberate) is a glimpse that this could have been an Americana record. But go behind the perfect small-town calm and there’s something so unsettling in the thoughts. The whispered backing vocals seem to underline it.
“Tarnish” is one for the fans that have been here with him since the start. You feel like you know Hause in his words and his thought that “I’m living here like a monk” raises a smile, and this album’s ability to unsettle you is here again in the drums of “The Vulture”. There’s a nervous energy that you can’t escape.
There’s a line in “Tarnish” that suggests that “I never got a golden record, perhaps the melodies were wrong”. Maybe they were. But there’s too much reality in these words. Too much real life in the 30 minutes for the mainstream.
Any Dave Hause record is a treat. “Drive It Like You Stole It” is another in a long line of brilliance. It’s not as immediate as some he’s done, but stick with it a couple of times and it is brave and utterly wonderful.