Houston: Relaunch II

Soft-rocking Swedes go off-piste. Lady Gaga cover included.

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When the first Houston album arrived four years ago, it was as if AOR had its answer to The Black Crowes circa 1989: a modern band that was a throwback to a past golden age.

Based in Stockholm, the group was named Houston in tongue-in-cheek homage to those geographically branded giants of melodic rock, Boston, Chicago and Kansas. That debut album, self-titled, sounded like it was made in 1985, and was duly proclaimed the AOR album of 2010 by Classic Rock.

Now, Houston’s hardline atavism has softened. Like the original Relaunch album from 2011, Relaunch II mixes original songs and covers. But where they once did only vintage AOR classics, such as Michael Bolton’s Carrie, they’re now trying contemporary pop songs too. Their version of Lady Gaga’s club ‘banger’ Do What U Want co-stars fellow Swedish singer Lizette Von Panajott. It’s like Roxette, in a good way.

Less successful are bland versions of hits by OneRepublic and Florida Georgia Line. Much better are Houston’s own songs – especially the finely crafted ballad Standing On The Moon. Ultimately, this Relaunch concept has run its course./o:p

Paul Elliott

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2005, Paul Elliott has worked for leading music titles since 1985, including Sounds, Kerrang!, MOJO and Q. He is the author of several books including the first biography of Guns N’ Roses and the autobiography of bodyguard-to-the-stars Danny Francis. He has written liner notes for classic album reissues by artists such as Def Leppard, Thin Lizzy and Kiss, and currently works as content editor for Total Guitar. He lives in Bath - of which David Coverdale recently said: “How very Roman of you!”