Hawthorne Heights rose to prominence last year as one of the signature artists of the Myspace generation, thanks largely to the screamo tune “Ohio Is For Lovers,” a song every bit as absurd as it was catchy. After “Ohio” took off, their Victory Records debut The Silence In Black And White was re-released with 8 new tracks, a bonus DVD, and packaging that modestly called it “the best CD/DVD release ever!!!” Thankfully, no such bravado accompanies the band’s follow-up, If Only You Were Lonely, an album that is more reserved but, overall, not much different from its predecessor. The band again relies on slightly tempered verses, explosive choruses, and heavy guitars, rarely deviating from the formula.
Guitarist Casey Calvert reprises his role as the group’s designated screamer, but his vocal thrashings are featured less prominently here, relegated mainly to solos near the end of songs. Surprisingly, this ends up being a bad thing, because while the screaming is grating at times, it provides one of the principal elements of the band’s sound. The songs that work best—“This Is Who We Are” and “Saying Sorry”—are the ones that feature the familiar vocal interplay between Calvert and primary singer JT Woodruff. Those that Woodruff has to carry on his own, like “Language Lessons” and “I Am On Your Side,” are mostly unremarkable. One exception is the disc’s closing track, the piano ballad “Decembers,” where Woodruff does his best impression of Ben Gibbard, complemented nicely by weeping guitars and lyrics that, aside from a reference to “a self-inflicted coma,” are less cringe-worthy than in the past.
The rest of the album is dominated by overdramatic lyrics equating breaking up with the end of the world, and plenty of emo imagery: scars, dissection, “spilling my insides,” “ribbons of self doubt,” “dripping poison,” and plenty of other tedious expressions that are standard fare for the genre. Hawthorne Heights deserve credit for connecting with their target audience, angsty teens for whom every minor event in life is a crisis. For that crowd, this is a good record. For everybody else, it’s essentially irrelevant.