Okay, so Dave Hause has been in a few bands in the past decade. Things have been going pretty well for him in the “solo guy” (his words) stage of his career, what with a stream of Devour (Rise Records), his massive second solo release, premiering on The Wall Street Journal’s website earlier this week and all of that. No big deal or anything. But if you track his trajectory over the past decade or so, you’ll notice that Hause has gone through a pretty huge songwriting overhaul (but also kind of remarkably remains his own), from his days chiseling out the modern Philly hardcore scene in the early 2000’s, to founding a seminal melodic punk voice in The Loved Ones, to resting on new laurels this decade as a full-on folk rock storyteller. So let’s take a look at that timeline.
The Curse – “Benson & Hedges,” The Curse EP, 2003
The Curse’s output doesn’t stretch much further than a six-song EP and a four-way split with Paint It Black, Go! For The Throat and Knives Out called The Philadelphia Sound. As short-lived as the band was, Hause still finds his involvement pretty integral. “The thing with The Curse was,” he says, “those songs were really fast and really specifically melodic hardcore. Really genre-specific. I do think some of the lyrics, I’m pretty proud of and some of the arrangements were cool, especially for where we were at the time.”
Songs like “Lifeboat,” from The Curse EP, “are definitely a link in the chain,” Hause says, between his writing in The Curse and Paint It Black to what he would later craft with the Loved Ones. “Benson & Hedges,” which was even later reworked as a Loved Ones song, has that hyperdrive tempo that bands like Lifetime and Kid Dynamite were popularizing, and while his vocal contribution is pretty minimal, the track’s structure and vocal melodies have his signature written all over it.
Paint It Black – “Void,” CVA, 2003
On hardcore staples Paint It Black’s first record, Hause admits that his contributions as guitarist and backup vocalist weren’t huge. “That record was mostly Dan [Yemin]’s. Something like 90% of it was already in his head before he even brought it to us. I did have some fingerprints on it though. Anytime he would think of it I would write some melodic vocal parts and a few lyrics.”
“Void” is a particularly interesting track off CVA to look at not because of Hause’s presence- he belts two lines during its 59 seconds- but from the crazy amount of contrast between Yemin’s blistered bark and Hause’s delivery of “We’ll disappear without a trace/ If we don’t spit it right back in their fucking face”. It’s the closest CVA gets to anything resembling a pop chorus, and these are the kinds of ideas that Hause flushed out of this record. His spell in Paint It Black didn’t last too long, as Hause began juggling his time between both Paint It Black and his newly formed Loved Ones, which he had a much wider creative input, before leaving Paint It Black in 2004.
The Loved Ones – “100K,” The Loved Ones EP, 2005
It’s funny to see the kind of things a dude can put out when he starts writing songs over two minutes long. Melodic punk, pop punk, whatever you want to call it, The Loved Ones seems clear as a free pass for Hause to start exploring all sorts of song structures and melodic hooks. “100K” is the first introduction to The Loved Ones and it’s mad loaded with ideas: spastic guitar riffs, a comfortable guitar/hi-hat/vocal bridge and an outrageously catchy chorus: “Given the chance, I’d rather rot in hell/ than see you fade selling the lies they tell/ We’ll burn the house down and break the spell this time”. This track alone already met a lot of the checklist requirements for a solid, mid-00’s punk band before they even released a full-length record.
The Loved Ones – “Please Be Here,” Keep Your Heart, 2006
Fat Wreck Chords put out Keep Your Heart, a record that runs in even more directions than the Loved Ones’ first EP while still defining Hause’s voice. “Please Be Here” is one of a few tracks that finds a tighter footing on structured songwriting; it’s very organized, with its smartly-placed backup vocals and muted guitar chords.
It also becomes pretty clear that Hause is singing about some rough topics. “[Keep Your Heart] came from a place of really heavy loss,” he says about the record’s lyrics and tone. “I think that really connected with a lot of people.” “Please Be Here” might not be the lowest of low points on Keep Your Heart, but it’s still pretty bleak with lyrics touching on being torn away from a relationship- not because of either party, but only from circumstance. “Just hold on tight, my lonely one,” the track’s refrain, cuts a little harder and a little sadder each time.
The Loved Ones – “Louisiana,” Build & Burn, 2008
“There was a little bit more songwriting exercise going on,” Hause explains about Build & Burn, the Loved Ones’ second record. “It didn’t come from such a severely painful place.” That sounds about right. If Keep Your Heart was a sandbox for Hause to experiment in, Build & Burn was the entire playground. Ignoring any semblance of a blueprint, the tracks on this record jump all over the place, from pretty standard (at this point) Loved Ones fare like opener “Pretty Good Year” to the softer, muted “Brittle Heart,” followed directly by “Selfish Masquerade,” a midtempo (!), piano-driven ballad.
“Louisiana” is probably the biggest outlier on Build & Burn. Forget that there are maybe nine or so actual lyrics and pay attention to how huge of a departure this is for Hause as a songwriter; it’s simultaneously a folk song, a punk song and a gospel song at any one point. Organs hum, harmonicas wail, keys flutter, guitars shred and Hause flexes his voice beyond range in a very classically written American tune. “Lousiana” is also surprisingly direct in how it addresses post-Katrina anger, saying a whole lot without too much actually being said: “They’re pounding nails.”
Dave Hause – “C’mon Kid,” Resolutions, 2011
It’s only natural that Hause would eventually release songs under his own name. Resolutions could only be a solo record in the way that it fully reaches for territories that punk rock sometimes can’t afford. “C’mon Kid” is a swaggering track packed with instrumentation, exploding in Southern-fried blues while maintaining that time-tested pop hook- you know the one. The uplift in the lyrics is refreshing, as Hause embodies a perfect bro: “I’m reaching out to you/ get out of bed, kid, and face the world/ and show us what you can do”. The Loved Ones couldn’t put out this song; it’s too happy.
Dave Hause – “We Could Be Kings,” Devour, 2013
Devour is, beyond all else, the heaviest record Hause has written to date. But when you dissect it past the social criticism and emotional weight, it feels like a synthesis of all his songwriting techniques. “We Could Be Kings” is Americana rock to the core but also feels like a compact history of where Hause (as a musician) came from and where he’s going, which, as this song would lead me to believe, would be down the line as an American storyteller. The reality is tangible as Hause recounts the feeling of being lied to as a child by the system: “He was too young to know better/ and we were all unemployed/ the sergeant promised a cake walk/ until he got deployed” as piano keys drive the image home.