Valby Hallen, Copenhagen, DEN - 26/4
Run Wild, Stay Alive
Written by: PP on 06/11/2016 23:01:16
Listener may have trademarked the expression speak music more than a decade ago, but it was Hotel Books that captured the imagination of the emotionally broken emo kids on last year's "Run Wild, Young Beauty". The poetic ramblings of Cam Smith over minimalistic instrumentation seemingly lit a fire underneath many an introverted, but emotionally damaged emo fan with the internet filling from comments like "they provide words for feelings I could never describe", plus all the copycat bands that have since then surfaced in the aftermath of one of the best post-hardcore releases of modern time (if you can call it post-hardcore anyway).
What was particularly special about the record was how much it demanded your attention. Every lyric, every note, every detail added to a powerful, convincing package where you missed out the underlying depth if you didn't actively listen to every word Cam Smith was speaking, singing, or screaming about. The same idea applies on "Run Wild, Stay Alive", perhaps even more so given how much louder and more aggressive the record is compared to its predecessor. There's a whole lot more screaming and far more instrumentation with most songs now fully following a post-hardcore format with quiet/loud segments showcasing Cam Smith's emotionally-charged poetry exploding into chaotic screaming, Being As An Ocean style.
The record is still backed by breathtaking lyricism that's as relatable as it is emotionally wrought and painful to listen to. Consider this segment from album highlight "Constant Conflicts", for instance, which really puts a spotlight into the kind of emotional torture Cam Smith puts himself through, thus providing a channel for many to find solace and understanding of their own emotions in turn:
"Death is not a choice and love should not be either / I'll endure the pain if our hearts endure the weather / The only pain worse than killing with force is killing with neglect I guess / And now I know that our love was completely dead / I will complicate this love just to feel something / And I'm sorry if it's clouded all the facts /The rhythm of my heartbeat change in the moment that I realized you are not coming back"
It's the pacing and the sudden crescendo from talking into screaming during "I will complicate this love just to feel something" that brings the song home and makes it a must hear post-hardcore song in 2016. But the fascinating lyrical introspection doesn't end there. Consider this segment from "I Think You See Where This Is Headed":
"There's a time and place for fostered truth and half glass full of emotional prostitutes / Positioned to let go and find hope in a bitter chokehold /A branding of understanding and ranting and raving won't lead to enchanting and saving"
It's pieces like these, together with the well-timed screams, which brought Hotel Books their initial success. But let's come back around to the instrumentals, because overall "Run Wild, Stay Alive" is the polar opposite album to its predecessor. The songs are no longer minimalistic, even if they do feature cinematic post-rock passages here and there. There are real riffs, and the focus has shifted from quiet poetry into screamo for the most part. It has the unfortunate side effect of drowning some of the intense emotion because the lyrics are now competing against a complex instrumental landscape, best exemplified by the technical "Alcoholocaust" towards the end of the record. It's a needed change to keep things fresh, but it does drag the record down a notch from the spot-on emotional torment of last year's effort. Exciting to see where these guys go next, if they find a perfect balance between the two, they will very quickly grow into a cult band within the scene.
Download: Saltwater For Blood, Constant Conflicts, Where We Sleep Is Where We Dream, Lesser
For the fans of: Listener, September Stories, La Dispute, Have Mercy, Being As An Ocean
Release date 03.06.2016