Sweden’s Houston tick all the right AOR boxes, but for some reason they have yet to be fully embraced by a sceptical melodic-rock community. Maybe the problem is that they (well, he to be precise, the band being a vehicle for singer Hank Erix) are too knowing. Their approach to the genre is reverential, almost professorial, which is mistaken by some as being AOR-by-numbers.
A case in point is III’s opening track, Cold As Ice. It borrows its title from a Foreigner song and opens with the archetypal lyric ‘My eyes were aching/My hands were shaking/My mind was breaking’. Top marks straightaway. But meanwhile, in the Jeff Scott Soto fan club suspicions remain. Are Houston scrupulously following a blueprint, or do they simply know their AOR onions? The debate continues to rage – politely.
On this side of the fence, and to continue the ‘knowing’ theme, all we can hear is music that’s as buoyant as Sib Hashian’s hairdo and as dapper as Dennis DeYoung’s waistcoat. From the sublime single Dangerous Love, via the teary To Be With You to the shimmering West Coast vibe of Interstate Life, we’re lovin’ every minute of it.