Standing Hawthorn: Welcoming back the O.C. quartet, and their new album ‘Living Without Lies’


Here’s the way things used to work: You pick up your copy of the Los Angeles Times, you read a well-written profile of a local rock quartet and you make a note to see if the local record store (I favored Fingerprints in Long Beach or Noise Noise Noise in Costa Mesa in those days) had the album in stock. On your weekly visit to said store, on which you invariably spent more on music than you had budgeted, you get the clerk’s opinion, and maybe twist his arm into playing you the store copy. You depart a bit poorer but a bit richer, if you know what I mean.

That’s my memory of Standing Hawthorn, the Orange County foursome whose album “Itch” came to my shelves (where it still resides) in that manner. The quartet of Paul Schulte, Chris Karn, Brent Loomis and Douglas Stoner Peterson toiled in days “alt-rock” was a buzzword, shaping expansive guitar rock freighted with social commentary and weighty metaphor. They simply never got the break they should’ve.

So it is with some amount of glee that I report Standing Hawthorn has returned – not on a nostalgia trip, but with a new album, “Living Without Lies,” that sounds as timeless as much of the great radio rock of their first go-round. Schulte still has the vocal command of a world-class frontman, and Karn (who also has fronted the band Deccatree) remains a guitarist who can change the climate. “Living Without Lies” thinks big, and Schulte, Karn, Loomis and Peterson have the chops to realize those ideas. (And it’s a bonus that they included a great cover of the Split Enz’ “Six Months on a Leaky Boat.”)

Welcome back.

||| Download: “Worlds Away”

||| Live: Standing Hawthorn plays June 28 at the Observatory in Santa Ana.