Flying Upside Down
First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2008, Volume 15, #9
Written by John Metzger
Fri September 19, 2008, 06:30 AM CDT
Countless times during his largely forgettable debut Lost & Found, singer/songwriter Griffin House came out on the wrong end of a losing battle between his artistic inclinations and his commercial aspirations. Lacking wisdom and experience, his music frequently felt forced into place, which left his underdeveloped sense of lyricism to fly solo in the breeze. Four years and several digitally issued albums later, House has re-emerged with Flying Upside Down, and it immediately is apparent that the awkwardness of his initial forays has begun to evolve into something that is considerably more satisfying.
For the record, House’s transformation into a major player isn’t yet complete, and in spite of the presence of heavy-hitters like Nickel Creek’s Sara Watkins and Heartbreakers’ Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell, Flying Upside Down is far from a perfect album. Fortunately, none of the songs on the endeavor are nearly as vapid those on Lost & Found, though at their worst, House’s incursions into amplified rock continue to fall flat. While tunes like the title track and Good for You are agreeable enough to fit firmly within the scope of mainstream, AAA radio, there also is nothing particularly distinctive or interesting about them. Hangin’ On (Tom’s Song) fares slightly better, though it still sounds too much as if House is merely trying to mimic U2, while Live to Be Free finds Campbell playing the role of David Lindley to House’s Jackson Browne.
In addition, whether he’s singing songs of love and heartache or dabbling in political commentary, House’s lyrics still leave something to be desired. He doesn’t necessarily offer fresh insight, and although he strives to be poetic, he often settles for clichés. Throughout Flying Upside Down, however, he at least provides his words with better support, thus minimizing his deficiencies. It is, after all, easier to swallow a few generic turns-of-phrase if the melodies and the atmospherics that surround them are engaging.
House clearly feels most comfortable when his music is kept up close and personal, and his increased confidence as a vocalist has allowed him to forge a stronger emotional bond to his prospective fans. Opening cut Better than Love, for example, bears a decidedly Neil Young-ian flavor, albeit one that is drawn through Ryan Adams’ canon, while Let Me In applies House’s growing infatuation with Adams’ work to material that is drawn straight from Jackson Browne’s early ’70s repertoire. In both cases, House establishes levels of intimacy that previously had eluded him, and although he still seems to be echoing rather than transcending his influences, he now sounds as if he finally is at ease with a majority of his material. This is a big step forward for him, and it’s one that he needed to take in order to develop his own voice. Flying Upside Down may contain a few miscues, but they aren’t so egregiously unforgivable that they scuttle the affair. In another album or two, Griffin House’s name very well may be one that everyone knows.
Of Further Interest...
Flying Upside Down is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box