It has been a few years now since Deaf Havana made their debut with a rip roaring, scuzzed-up hardcore punk sound taking cues from bands like Gallows and Refused. Their second album saw a line-up change and a notable step towards a more melodic sound. Old Souls sees Deaf Havana taking yet another possibly divisive step towards the mainstream, but in places it feels like a band fighting with its own identity.
The album kicks off with 'Boston Square', a huge rock number with reference points such as Foo Fighters or even Bruce Springsteen in places. There is a huge, hook filled chorus and an incredibly strong vocal delivery as the band strive to carve out a niche as Britain's answer to Kings of Leon.
After this thrilling opening salvo, however, things become a little more restrained with the piano accompanied 'Lights', which is perhaps the most polished thing they have released to date. Next up is the fantastically titled 'Everybody's Dancing and I Want to Die' which adds a horn section into the mix, coming across like an astonishingly polished version of The Gaslight Anthem.
The problem with Old Souls, however, is that it showcases a band who are seemingly struggling with what they want to be. The majority of the songs on the album are considered, radio friendly power pop numbers such as 'Night Drives' which has a Jimmy Eat World, teetering on the edge of emo vibe about it and 'Tuesday People' which includes a guitar line not a million miles away from one found in a certain Stereophonics song. However, there are also a few more familiarly gruff songs such as 'Kings Road Ghosts' and 'Subterranean Bulls*** Blues' which, while there is nothing necessarily wrong with them - both are convincing enough - they do feel tacked on with the sole intention of appeasing old fans. It might have been an idea to have put the louder songs out as a stop gap EP between albums to smooth the transition in the band's sound, before going out with a whole album of studio sheen and polish.
Old Souls, then, seems to be an exercise in half measures. This is a band who just need to decide where they want to go. They clearly have the talent and ambition to be the next Snow Patrol, for example, but they have to either become the polished pop-rock chart band, or remain the scrappy punk band they have been so convincingly for so long.