An ebullient howl delivered by a band happy to get back to doing what they do best.
The lack of fanfare that accompanied the reunion of the Rock*A*Teens in 2014 is arguably the most suitable thing that could have happened to the band. Fanfare never really agreed with them so much as consistency and a workmanlike drive did. While the band was perhaps best remembered for the chaos of their recordings (and a somewhat chaotic setup outside of the studio), there was something to be admired about how they just kept going, doing what they did until they stopped. Naturally, then, Sixth House isn’t a grand reinvention of any kind so much as it is a continuation; the Rock*A*Teens pick things up pretty much where they left off as if their 17-year hiatus only lasted a few months or so.
That isn’t to say that Chris Lopez and company are exactly the same sorts of songwriters and musicians that they were during the band’s heyday (even if Lopez is the only member of the current lineup who was present during that time.) To expect the Rock*A*Teens to come back making an exact replica of Cry or Golden Time would be foolish. Instead, Sixth House presents a version of the band that’s ever so slightly reined in, their chaotic tendencies tempered. In its place is a palpable sense of joy and excitement, perhaps best exemplified by lead single “Go Tell Everybody.” A hookier song than one would have probably expected, it’s infused with mad glee by Lopez’s vocals, which have aged remarkably well. It’s less of a call to arms or an announcement of intent than it is an ebullient howl delivered by a band happy to get back to doing what they do best.
Yet, despite the band demonstrating the maturity that inevitably comes with age, the Rock*A*Teens do their best to make Sixth House into as much of a familiar experience as they can without embarrassing themselves. Thus, what you get here is still very much a Rock*A*Teens album with many of the aesthetics and trappings that were at the core of the band’s appeal to begin with. While the band have certainly tightened up, they still play with a sort of ramshackle looseness that nowadays feels more like an amiable jam amongst friends than it does the end of the world. Lopez still sings with the theatricality of a slightly cleaned-up Lux Interior, imbuing these songs with the proper amount of drama and sway to keep the listener hooked. In essence, the Rock*A*Teens have delivered exactly what one would have expected from a reunion album with Sixth House; it seems unlikely that they would have tried to do anything else.
The Rock*A*Teens of 2018 may not have the sort of self-destructive tendencies of their earlier incarnation, but in the silent years between 2001 and now, they’ve scarcely lost a step. Sixth House is unlikely to win any new converts to this perennially under-appreciated band, and it’s probably not the best example of how Lopez and his collaborators could create barely-contained mayhem on a whim. Regardless, though, Sixth House is a welcome addition to the band’s catalog and proof that both age and the musical proficiency that often comes with it cannot completely quell the fire that rages within some artists.