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Gallo's Greats: Have Heart

Many albums that I love are celebrating anniversaries this year, some older than others. These next few weeks I will review some of my favorites and share my love for all kinds of music. 

The now defunct Have Heart was formed in 2002 by vocalist Patrick Flynn, guitarist Ryan Hudon, and bassist Ryan Briggs. After releasing a demo in November 2003, the trio was slowly climbing the ranks within the Boston hardcore scene. By 2005, they signed to a bigger label and added drummer Shawn Costa alongside guitarist Kei Yasui. Their first EP titled “The Things We Carry” was released in 2006, cementing Have Heart into the center of not only Boston hardcore, but the entire hardcore scene.

Songs to Scream at the Sun,” their sophomore album released in 2008, turned 15 years old on July 8, 2023. I was introduced to Have Heart more than five years ago when I was young, still in high school, and desperately eager to own a black Swatch X watch, the mark of all straight edge kids. I had never heard anything quite like Have Heart before and I wish that I could listen to their entire discography for the first time and experience that magic again.

The album starts off powerful, on ‘The Same Son,’ with Flynn yelling “When I look into the mirror I see a boy not a man, the son of a father I refuse to understand.” The song is less than a minute, yet it builds up in that short time into arguably one of Have Heart’s most popular tracks. ‘Bostons’ is a sobering tale about a young son trying to break the chains of alcoholism that has imprisoned his family for decades. ‘And in this city you once knew as hell is a garden where I enjoy myself, and in this father I hardly know was a son who took back what the bottle stole’. 

‘Bostons’ closes out with an energetic, almost conversational outro of Flynn reiterating what that son’s childhood might have looked like, ‘o' your friends say boston's beautiful, but they didn't live hard, they didn't die hard, when sons dragged out their fathers from bars.’ 

“Songs to Scream at the Sun” is a coming of age album, with the story strewn about and weaved within the songs. As ‘Bostons’ closes out, it continues the instrumental into the next track, ‘Pave Paradise’, a suffocating song detailing the grueling touring life where he longs for peace and quiet, but when he finally achieves that, he immediately wants to be back on the road. ‘Put the keys in, turn the engine, and let the big green van drive me from this city, from anything but simplicity’. 

‘On The Bird In The Cage’ involves another crucial aspect of growing up, which is letting go of insecurities and fears of being without someone. In this case, it’s about a relationship where the narrator recognizes their toxicity and how they are holding their partner back from truly being free and flourishing, ‘because it’s you I love, then from you, I walk away’.

 The feedback fades into ‘Brotherly Love’, a harrowing story of letting go of family when there is nothing left to hold onto except memories, photos, words. Flynn articulates every word, spearing you in the gut with the fact that sometimes, an integral part of growing up is knowing when to let go of not just friends and lovers, but family as well. 

‘No Roses, No Skies’ is hands down one of my favorite songs of all time. It is a heartfelt lament to all the women in Have Heart’s lives that have dealt with the pressures of society telling them they aren’t good enough, aren’t pretty enough, or how they will never find their true love. 'But at night you're dancing through the pain even when you're the only one. No rose, no sky as full of beauty as the girl who dies but rises with every morning's sun, alone.' The band encourages the women to continue living their lives the way they want to, regardless of what anyone else says. 

‘The Taste of the Floor’ is another sub-minute fast song that details personal emptiness. The band dives head first into the intro and continues that heavy pace for the duration as it transitions into the semi-instrumental ‘Reflections’. The loud cymbals crash over and over on top of Flynn as he repeats the same phrase, ‘in this refuge, this scene, where hearts don't hide from the sleeve’. 

As ‘Reflections’ fades out, the heavy guitars of Yasui and Hudon sneak up in ‘Hard Bark on the Family Tree’, another personal favorite of mine. The guitars are alone for the first 10 seconds before Costa noisily barges in and kicks the song into full gear. ‘Some things just fall apart’ Flynn yells as it becomes apparent this is another life lesson in growing up which is that sometimes not everything is built to stay together forever.  While this song may sound upbeat, the lyrics will tear you apart if you examine them closely; ‘Some families are like November trees: barren and stark,’ ‘some sons have a hard time, looking at the things the same, looking in their father’s eyes, when both hang their heads in shame’. This song could have an entire essay analyzing how the narrator views his family dynamic. Prior to the band chanting ‘oceans of emotions, we’ve got to swim’, Flynn prefaces it by saying ‘highways home become oceans, that I just can’t swim,’ giving the listener almost everything they need to know about the narrator and the relationship between him and his family. 

Closing out the 21 minute album is ‘The Same Sun’, a play on the opening track and its title. Flynn pleads with the audience to denounce humanity and their selfishness, hoping that we will all realize no matter who we are, we all share the same sun that sees everything going on. It calls back to the opening track’s lyrics of ‘sisters starving, brothers begging, mothers mourning, fathers folding’. ‘The Same Sun’ mentions that while people, who are comfortable and will most likely never experience that pain, complain endlessly about nothing, some others are facing more severe issues. ‘While you wallow and wail in your tower of ivy, your sisters are starving, your brothers are begging, your mothers are mourning, your fathers are folding’.  It also harks back to the boy in the mirror in the first song who is unable to see himself moving on, ‘Wake up, look up, that's something you share, there's more to life than the boy in that mirror’. The final part of maturing is recognizing that once we realize the lives we are living are based in selfishness, only then are we able to move on and finally grow up. 

Even though Have Heart is no more, all of the members have families or different projects they are working on, this band still remains a strong statue in my life that withstands the test of time. Pat Flynn, alongside Shawn Costa and a few other different band members, formed Fiddlehead, a post-hardcore band with softer melodies but the same strong Have Heart based lyrics. 

Fiddlehead recently opened up for another band who did an anniversary tour this year for an album I will be reviewing soon. I had the pleasure of meeting Pat Flynn and telling him how much Have Heart and ‘Songs to Scream at the Sun’ meant to me as a 17 year old in high school and now as an almost 22 year old in college. It was a surreal experience and one I think about fondly. 

Have Heart forever. 

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