People always say mystery captures the imagination, but it doesn't. If mystery captured the imagination, we'd sit and drool mindlessly when staring at the night sky or Stonehenge. But we don't; we speculate. Mystery evades your imagination, forcing you to reason and draw conclusions where patterns and sense may not exist. Mystery is walking into an empty room and for one moment smelling what you think is a hint of the best baked apple pie you've ever encountered. Mystery is Haunted House, who may or may not be a band who may or may not have recorded one of the most desperate and inspired EPs of 2004.
The album case for the Haunted Houses presumably self-titled EP is a piece of plain white poster board folded and stapled to create a pocket for a burned compact disc inside. The words Haunted House are painted in green on the front of the poster board and glue and glitter are haphazardly strewn across the title. The CD-R inside is painted in green with the letters HNTD HSE. These are the only clues. These are the only facts. This is the whiff of apple pie.
When I saw this record in the stacks at the radio station I work at, I asked around. No one knew what it was. It came in the mail. No return address, no further information, just this CD-R in the most ridiculous packaging imaginable.
With no tracklist and absolutely no guidance at all, I decided to start at the start: Track 1. I expected the music to be the punch line to the worst self-released band ever joke, but luckily, for rock music fans everywhere, this was no the case. Without warning, noxious noise flew out of the speakers and suddenly Bruce Springsteen was being mangled by what can only be described as Fucking Death Machines. The song is a mess of keyboard melodies, distorted rhythms and vocals so hopelessly gnarled that they sound like they're being played out of an amplified washing machine. Everything fizzes and pops; nothing is spared. Hiss hasn't sounded this important and necessary since the first Guided by Voices records.
Track 2 takes the energy, passion and sheer electronic confusion of the first track and takes it to its fantastically desperate edge. Haunted Houses vocalist, whoever he is, isn't singing a song at all. I'm convinced he's just some guy who found this instrumental pop tour de force recording in a junkyard somewhere and decided to take it home and sputter his own voice over the recording, letting all of his nervous emotion and uncertainty out of his calloused, innocent throat. This is the most instantly catchy noise rock song of the year, a bizarrely mainstream distorted catch-all of vocals, wavering keyboards and Top 40 drumming.
And as Track 3 begins with a pounding, war-like bellowing of electronic piano, I picture Haunted House as a group of friends with nothing else in their lives except a few cheap keyboards, a drum machine and the worlds worst recording equipment. I picture them all in the same room, listening intently for the first time to their raw and beautiful recording and being embarrassed. I picture them creating the covers (if there are other copies) in silence, working with an assortment of artistic implements left over from a band members little sisters art phase. I picture each cover is as disturbingly unique and random as the one I saw. And I picture Haunted House sending these recordings to college radio stations across the country, the gesture one last desperate plea to see if anyone accepts their creativity and feeling.
Haunted House are a mystery. They've evaded my imagination, and look at how I've reacted: by creating a whole back story based on three phenomenally catchy noise rock songs and a piece of painted poster board. I'm trying to draw conclusions and create reason and patterns where they are not.
I may never be able to find the sense and reason behind Haunted House. We lost the CD at the station and Google searches remain uneventful. Without any information except for the bands name (is it even the bands name?), I probably will never find them. I just hope wherever they, they read this review, realize the beauty of what they've created and try to contact me. Please read this. Please. Please write to me. I want to know. I want to see the apple pie.