In a time when bands are able to buff out their every last blemish by way of modern production techniques, Mike Watton's embrace of his monotone growl seems that much more unusual. On his band Haunted House's debut, Guess Who's Not Coming To Dinner, the singer's peculiar tone is the first sign of just how unpredictable is the music to come, as if The Jesus Lizard's David Yow were to reinvent himself as a pop singer, layering his nasally drawl beneath dense piano, breezy synths and an erratic rhythm section.
Haunted House began in 2002 as a solo project of Watton's, performing live with a revolving crew of contributors including drummers like Vampire Hands' Colin Johnson, Skoal Kodiak's Freddy Votel, and Martin Dosh. As time went on, a band grew around Watton including Cole Claerhout on guitar and percussion, bassist Jon Davis, and drummer Adam Patterson.
Haunted House deftly combines a host of influences to create an oddly original sound. The keys opening “Mirror” seem like a clear callout to Andrew W.K.'s “Girls Own Love,” while “The Coliseum” bends a dense, brooding rhythm section around late-stage '70s arena-rock. “The Hooker's Imagination” reflects something closer to the bouncing sound found throughout the New Pornographers' bubbling discography. The synth on "Let God Have His Way" echoes 1984-era Van Halen, and there's even a jam-band breakdown in "Rattled Out In Makeup." The parts are all familiar, but the combinations are imaginative and exciting—and the band may yet have more surprises in store, with two more albums (Lesh Is More and Ravage Through The Bum's Hair) already in the works for 2010.
[This article was first published by the AV Club.]