Hotel Books

Run Wild, Young Beauty

Written by: PP on 17/06/2015 22:09:34

For those of you not familiar with Hotel Books prior to this review, the group is essentially a spoken-word poetry project by vocalist Cam Smith with a revolving door of musicians providing the instrumental backing to his musings and ramblings about love and spirituality. The instrumental landscape is primarily a minimalistic blend of math rock, indie rock, and post-rock, where a few elements of post-hardcore occasionally draw the songs into rising crescendos to highlight the most dramatic passages in Smith's depth-laden poetry. Hence, the initial listen to sophomore full-length album "Run Wild, Young Beauty" is a difficult one, because the record is essentially 80% about the lyrical content and its delivery rather than about instrumental dynamics or other conventional measures of songwriting. In practice, it means listening to Hotel Books requires your absolute attention at first to familiarize yourself with the words because only a couple of tracks have instrumentation qualifying as anything else than minimalistic or mood-setting.

While that might not sound like the most enticing of albums on paper, repeated listening sessions prove it's a rather spectacular record overall, thanks to Smith's lyricism that's out of this world when it comes to intensity of emotion and passion for his beliefs. As one internet commenter put it, "They provide words for feelings I could never describe", and they do it through a raw emotional charge that's among the most intense you've ever heard. If you've had a chance to listen to Have Mercy's debut "The Earth Pushed Back", you know of the sort of emotional misery I'm talking about here, although Hotel Books is about overcoming that pain and turning it into a net positive instead. These songs are about a heart shattered into indescribably many pieces, coupled with musings about spirituality and Smith's sometimes complicated relationship with God and his central religious beliefs. While that's not something original, it's the way the lyrical content is written and expressed that makes all the difference in the world. Listen to the man talk about feelings on "July (Part One)", for example:

"And I’ve never really been one for taking second chances on times that I’ve been broken. But sometimes forgiveness needs to be put in place for someone to actually grow from these negative emotions, and all that constructive use of the pain that’s thrown at you is the only way to find refuge."

This, put together with raging emotional delivery in the vein of La Dispute and a more charismatic Listener, results into some truly hair-raising moments as we learn ways to express feeling broken inside we didn't know about before. And if you've ever felt destroyed by a girl leaving you, followed by rationalization and finally sense of acceptance of the situation, I'll be damned if "Nothing Was The Same" isn't the finest song written about that overall. Here's just a short passage of rapidly delivered spoken-word that eventually expands into explosive screams and loud post-hardcore guitars, here finally realizing La Dispute-style song dynamics that leave a lasting mark on its listener:

I spent so much time convincing myself that the rest of this mess that I stressed within this relationship was a product of the world’s oppression, not my deep desire to be needed. And it’s hard to admit but I guess I’ve come to terms with the fact that I just want to be needed, and I convinced myself that I needed to be needed.

And if that was true then I would still be smiling like you still today but for different reasons. I chose to dismiss the possible instance that the lips I love to kiss could form the words goodbye and it was a simple lie but I told you to and like the captain of a sinking ship choosing to believe the bottom of the ocean was a better source of oxygen.

It’s so nice I still chose to believe I misinterpreted your dialect and your diction and diatribe, posture, body language and connotations, because they all pointed in the same direction, the selection of contingent messages postponed until further notice because I was ashamed to admit the problem and pretend your happiness came from me and that your happiness was important.

The rest of the song is frankly, amazing, but you need to hear all of it to fully appreciate the lyricism. Spoken-word godhood doesn't even begin to describe what's going on here. The emotionally-wrought delivery is back chilling on its own, but when you add the instrumentation such as on "Two Steps Back", the band crosses a line from solid into frankly amazing. Similarly, "Love Life, Let Go" has one of the louder, more anthemic choruses on the album, and who better to lend vocals to a truly emotional song than Mr. Emo himself, JT Woodruff of Hawthorne Heights during the chorus melody.

The only real weakness with "Run Wild, Young Beauty" is its reach into Christianity that occasionally goes a little too far for us atheist types, such as on "813 Maryland St.":

"She put bullet through a Bible and thought it would empower her, but she felt nothing and that’s all she needed, to finally feel nothing. She stopped by my house the next morning and said “I’m sorry but I still don’t feel like this life is worth living, you did all you can you do.” I looked at her with tears in my eyes and said “Darling, I’m sorry, but I’m glad I’m not you."

Fortunately, many of the lyrics are metaphoric and allow for your own interpretation, and the love songs everyone can surely relate to. More instrumentation on this record would've made it an easy candidate for the best album this year, but even as it is, there's something about Cam Smith's lyricism and harsh, varied delivery that draws you into the abyss with him and refuses to let go.

Download: Nothing Was The Same, August (Part Two), Two Steps Back
For the fans of: Listener, La Dispute, Have Mercy, Touché Amoré
Listen: Facebook

Release date 07.04.2015
InVogue Records

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