Home, Like Noplace There Is
25 February 2014 (Tiny Engines)
By Adam Wood
The entire idea of pigeon-holing artists into simple-minded genres has always confused me. I appreciate that some music is easily classifiable: hip-hop will rarely be confused with rock and roll (spare some adventurous releases from Lil Wayne and Murs alike), but anything past this kind of generalization is detrimental to artists, audience, and industry alike (to be a bit tangential, I have a deep-rooted hatred for the “indie” genre, which is ridiculously named and completely pointless). This is increasingly true in the modern state of the music industry, which has witnessed more and more releases and artists that dabble in a wide range of genres and influences.
More than anything, I think our culture of forcing music into preconceived notions of genre and classification force us as individuals to be more close-minded in what we listen to. For the overwhelming majority of people, any music with even the most remote likeness to country music will immediately be disregarded and ignored. And sure, country music is prodigiously shitty, with few exceptions. But the exceptions do exist, and this oversimplification and closemindedness is nothing but damaging. In a less extreme case, “emo” music has grown into a sort of parody of itself in the public eye, too deeply rooted in self-pity and teenage angst to be a legitimate genre for serious adults. And that’s a damn shame, because there is some tremendous emo music being made, not least by The Hotelier with their new album “Home, Like Noplace Is There.”
This is the first release from the group after their subtle name change from The Hotel Year. I have no idea what the significance of the new title is, or the old one, but I like it. I also have no idea how to pronounce it. Either way, they’ve released a stunning album that updates the modern conception of punk and emo music in touching and wonderfully dramatic fashion. This is a band that’s clearly inspired by the likes of Brand New, Thursday, and even Taking Back Sunday; on the slightly more contemporary scene, I’d probably liken them to The World Is A Beautiful Place And I’m No Longer Afraid To Die. In fact, I’d argue that these two bands are leading the way for a modern emo revival, and I couldn’t be happier.
True to form, The Hotelier revolves pretty fully around their frontman Christian Holden, who has approached this album with a degree of introspection and gravity that is not always easily discoverable in the scene of “emo” music. Unlike Max Bemis and the generations of whiny vocalists before him, Holden is not entirely self-centered, however; more than anything, this album comes across as a mature approach to the emo genre. The music is as catchy, upbeat, and raucous as anything released in the genre for years and years, but it isn’t self-pitying, sex-obsessed, or drug-infused in the same old, tiresome ways. On “Your Deep Rest,” for example, Holden details the funeral of a friend, from the pain of attendance to feeling responsible at the sight of the family. Throughout the album, The Hotelier confronts addiction, acceptance, mental illness, gender identity, and a series of political messages through emotionally charged songs that I have to imagine produce very different responses depending on the individual. The lyrics are overwhelmingly narrative, relating personal stories and imagery before culminating in the pure hectic power of The Hotelier in full force. The album is immaculately woven together, not to create a single cohesive storyline or concept, but in accurately and fully depicting the mindset of a troubled protagonist. In some ways, this album comes across to me as a musical companion to The Catcher In The Rye in its disjointed feel and movement, nonetheless forming an incredibly cohesive and insightful look into the reality of the modern world. This might be a comparison entirely formed on the fact that Christian Holden’s last name is the same as the protagonist’s first name in the book.
Particularly refreshing in this album is the treatment of sensitive issues such as suicide, self-harm, and even self-hatred on “In Framing” and “Your Deep Rest.” In a genre as reviled and mocked for its glamorization of self-harm as emo is, The Hotelier’s willingness to discuss the painful reality of suicide and suicidal tendencies is equally as thoughtful and respectful as it is enthralling. Other songs on the album, unfortunately, fail to entirely meet their potential, with “Housebroken” the most disappointing example of a song weighed down in dramatics and an overly lofty imagining of musical expansion of a metaphor. The song essentially relates the plight of the everyday man to embrace his own identity and thirst for change through the lens of a dog chained to a fence. The idea is brought to life well, and the song is sonically excellent, but the concept itself remained fundamentally weak and didn’t manage to convey the message with any kind of real power.
It seems almost detrimental to point to any particular standouts when the album is consistently stellar and the songs truly build and support each other. This is an album that will do nothing but grow on you as you begin to unravel the convoluted layers of Holden’s vocals and you’re pummeled by the forcefulness of the guitar riffs and the raw strength of their drums. For an album so motivated by pain and desperation, evidenced even in the title which is the time-travelled mantra of “There’s no place like home” in reverse order (or I took it as such), it is incredibly powerful ending to the work to finish with the words “Tell me again that it’s all in my head.” With those, Holden and The Hotelier force their audience to acknowledge the pitfalls of society, the identification as a societal pariah, through an incredibly convincing, innovative, and enthralling emotive narrative laid bare across a liberating and vigorous musical backdrop. With “Housebroken” the only real misstep amidst jewels of tracks, The Hoteliers have created an infectious, powerful, and anthemic album rooted in storytelling, drenched in emotion, and motivated by the fighting spirit of punk music.
Standout Tracks: Dendron, The Scope Of All This Rebuilding, Discomfort Revisited
Rating: Gotta Have It