This is quite simply another punk pop album, and unfortunately not a very good one. You can usually rely on these kind of records to have one or two tracks that have a catchy enough tune and a funky guitar rift to at least make you understand why people will want to listen to them, get their parents to drive them to their gigs and why radio stations and MTV might want to play them. There isn't anything on 'A collection of Short Stories' that stands out from the crowd. If you like that sort of thing then fair enough, but this isn't the album that will sell millions across the world and have music TV request lines in melt down when the videos are released: unless of course there’s some eye candy starring in them!
'A Collection of Short Stories' is exactly that, a bunch of songs, written in the third person, that are all stories in their own right, which is the most interesting aspect of the record. OK so the subject matter does ultimately come down to love more often than not, but this is at least a different approach to making an album. It might though have something to do with the overall product not being that impressive as the focus may have been more on the words than the tunes, the latter barely lingers in the mind during the couple of seconds it takes for the next one to start.
If I had to pick out one track that could sell or define this album it would be 'Sunrise Goodbyes'. This is mainly because it is the first song you hear and therefore is the one that gives you your first impression of the band, an impression which has little chance to change whether you like what they do or not, which is my real problem with this record. Sure they write catchy pop punk but after a while the running trend is so similar it becomes boring. 'The Better Side of Vallar', which closes the CD also has something going for it, as it is more melodic in sound, the band themselves describe it as being ideally "a big film blockbuster theme tune".
The way to gain the most from this album is to listen on headphones as the one real plus point is that it is very well produced. If you can shut yourself into a world where all you can do is focus on the music, while trying to block out the tunes, you'll spot some interesting little additions. The keyboard is a nice touch and is one that I've not come across that often in albums such as this, credit where it's due this isn't musically a bad collection of tracks.
The sad fact is though that for all that there are some musical plus points, I've heard this kind of thing a thousand times before. You can really insert your chosen name at this point, be it Good Charlotte, Simple Plan, Blink182…I could go on. The fact is that all those I've just name checked have raised their game once or twice and produced a winning single or two. Hopefully Houston Calls can build on the potential of some flashes of musical interest, for they can play alright, and create something that will stand them out from the crowd. Otherwise they're in danger of being pop punk also rams.