Crawling in the dark.

This morning, my clock radio woke me up with the "New Rock" (i.e. "alternative rock" back in the 90s, which has now become mainstream and can't be called alternative anymore) radio station, as it usually does. The song it was playing was "Crawling In The Dark" by Hoobastank. Now, back in 2001, before the horror that was "The Reason" hit the airwaves and convinced everyone with tastes less mainstream than the average Nickelback fan that Hoobastank was as terrible as their name, I was a big fan of this song. In fact, I even bought their self-titled first album (at the time bargain priced at Tower, costing me all of $9). And for the most part, I liked it, especially "Crawling In The Dark", which was the sole reason that I bought it. I had liked Incubus's "Make Yourself" album (in hindsight, the only solid record they ever released), and "Crawling In The Dark" reminded me of the better songs on that album, but with an element of Quicksand-ish post hardcore mixed in. Honestly, it was right up my alley. But for various reasons, most notably the terrible band name and the aforementioned beyond-awful power ballad that finally secured their fame, Hoobastank fell out of favor with me. Ultimately, even for me, the guy who is often willing to champion bands in the face of universal revulsion, the stigma became too much, and I forgot about Hoobastank.

Hearing "Crawling In the Dark" on the clock-radio this morning, though, I found myself, still half-asleep, singing along under my breath. Between my less than full wakefulness and my recently vulnerable emotional state, the song was able to penetrate all of my defenses and connect with me on the same level where it hit me back in 2001. Actually, maybe even on a deeper level. They may not be brilliant, deathless examples of the form, but nonetheless, the lyrics really hit home for me this morning, waking up from an uneasy sleep after going to bed depressed. "Help me carry on, show me it's OK to use my heart and not my eyes to navigate the darkness", the singer says during the second verse. Then, in the chorus, "Is there something more than what I've been handed? I've been crawling in the dark, looking for the answer." No matter how cliched some of the turns of phrase here may be, they're a pretty accurate encapsulation of how I've been feeling lately.

The other thing about "Crawling In the Dark" that I haven't considered in a long time is just how good of a song it is. Granted, there's a bit too much production sheen overlaying the whole thing, and some of the lead guitar lines are fed through rather gimmicky effects--the kind of thing that you can imagine someone found by tinkering around with one of those huge effects racks that prog-rock worshipping guitar geeks think can stand in for actual talent. But despite all of that, it's a really catchy song. The chorus is driven by a melodic yet rocking riff, and the bridge has some real intensity to it, which brings things into the song's final chorus with enough energy to give it a powerful climactic effect. As mentioned before, Incubus were able to write quite a few songs like this around the time of their "Make Yourself" album, but "Crawling In the Dark" nixes Incubus's funk/rapcore influences in favor of a post-hardcore feel, particularly noticeable on the chugging, stop-start riff that follows the second chorus.

After hearing this song when I woke up this morning, I went digging for my copy of the first Hoobastank album. It's been so long since I had any desire to hear it that it took me 15 minutes to locate the obscure resting place in which it had finally washed up. It didn't have a jewel case anymore--scavenged in order to sell a caseless promo I received from a magazine and thought I could get a few bucks for--but I still had it, stuffed into a plastic sleeve along with its cover and tray card. Whatever had compelled me to single out this particular CD for the indignities it had suffered, it still survived somewhere in the darkest depths of my collection. And I'm glad it did; back in 2001 I thought it was a pretty solid CD. If "Crawling In The Dark" had been the only song on the record that I liked, I may very well have sold it soon after purchasing it, but I'd actually liked quite a few of the songs on it. Track 4, "Pieces", was a particularly good one, emphasizing the post-hardcore elements of Hoobastank's sound in order to create a chugging uptempo track that, with different vocals and production, could have fit in on an At The Drive In album. "Better" is a slower, groovier track, but showcases some of the same post-hardcore influences, combining them with an infectious chorus. "Up And Gone" is quite similar to better, though it's a bit more mainstream-sounding; it's still got enough energy and power behind its sound to be good, though. In fact, in my memory, the only bad songs had been the last two--an atrocious ballad called "To Be With You", which apparently represented foreshadowing too subtle for me to pick up on, and "Give It Back", which attempted to inject that whole Incubus/Chili Peppers funk influence that's absent elsewhere on the album back into Hoobastank's sound and fails miserably, at least at being a good song. Listening to it now, I'm not as charitable as I once was; "Pieces" is still awesome, and of course "Crawling In the Dark" is too, but "Running Away" is pretty ballady, moreso than I remember, and some of the other songs don't rock nearly as hard as I'd thought they did back then. Really, only about 50% of the album still sounds good to me at this point. That said, I can't take anything away from "Crawling In The Dark". It's an excellent song. Time may have proven it to be the exception rather than the rule where Hoobastank is concerned, but that's OK. I don't have to love everything they've done to have sincere affection for this particular song. And I do. I'm not ashamed. I'll probably be ripping it to my Ipod before the day is over. And honestly, I might even rip two or three other songs from this album too.

Hoobastank - Crawling In the Dark



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