REVIEW: The Hotelier- Home, Like Noplace Is There

The-Hotelier-Home-Like-Noplace-Is-There-e1392687415937Every once in a while, I hear an album that hooks me in because of the way it resonates with the music I grew up listening to. Maybe it reminds me of when I was younger and knew not a damn thing about what I wanted, where I wanted to go, what I wanted to be. Maybe it reminds me of the infinite answers I used to have to those questions, and how free that used to make me feel. How punk music helped me grow and change, made me examine and experience the world in entirely different ways, and how much all of that meant to me.

But it’s been forever since I’ve heard a record that reminds me that I’m still growing up. Massachusetts punk band The Hotelier have created that kind of record.

Home, Like Noplace Is There is a heavy, heartbreaking masterwork. It’s everything emotional punk bands should strive to create in this day and age. From the album’s opening cut, the tense, slow-build “An Introduction To The Album,” The Hotelier’s near-romantic retelling of tragedy and loss in the face of an uncertain future just becomes more and more pronounced and affective; so much so that the final acoustic outro of “Dendron” is a plea for the listener to dive back in and further examine and extract meaning from Home’s nine tracks.

The aforementioned “Introduction” is much more than its title may suggest. As much as this first track lays down the groundwork for an amazing punk album, it serves mostly as a promise from The Hotelier to the listener. “An Introduction To The Album” pulls back the curtains on the damaged and imperfect set upon which the album takes place, and acquaints its audience with its likewise flawed and struggling characters, through which the story of Home will be told: “Open the curtains. /Singing birds tell me ‘tear the buildings down.’/You felt blessed to receive their pleasant sound. /The sound of things that break make you cringe inside yourself.” By the track’s end, these characters are already unraveling, and their true problems and difficulties in their world are revealed and lamented by Christian Holden’s expressive voice: “And the pills that you gave didn’t do anything. /I just slept for years on end.” The track foreshadows the album’s scope as a whole, building from a quieter piano line into a larger pop-punk ballad before finally exploding into a pummeling punk downpour.

Home, Like Noplace Is There keeps and exceeds the promise made by its opening track, and The Hotelier consistently bests itself with each passing number. “The Scope of All of This Rebuilding” is a more straightforward pop-punk song, catchy and engaging enough to perk the ears of any listener not yet enthralled. This second track deals with the often-romanticized right of passage—leaving home. These characters grapple with the task of making their own worthwhile lives outside of their former homes, and appear to be just minutes away from throwing in the towel already: “You cut our ropes, /left the umbilical, /and now I carry around /this weight of broken hope.”

Further down the line, “Your Deep Rest” reveals itself to be the most up-front of the album’s nine tracks, as the narrator deals with the suicide of a close friend. The song appears to be almost upbeat at its outset, but this musical tone is counterbalanced by the blatant lyricism in the chorus: “I called in sick from your funeral. /The sight of your body made me feel uncomfortable.” This song highlights one of the more important aspects of Home, Like Noplace is There. The album, if it’s listened to carefully, is unsettling to sit through. It creates an intense and near-involuntary emotional response. At two or three points during “Your Deep Rest” alone, as the music gets a little quieter and Holden’s voice is a little bit clearer, the reality of these stories and often political sentiments is overwhelming.

This is what sets The Hotelier apart from other bands of its kind, this sense of rawness in nearly every aspect of its work. More than that, though, Home is important because it addresses important topics often avoided or glossed over in today’s musical scene. The chaotic, heavy “Life In Drag” pays direct attention to issues of gender identity and how our society harmfully deals with it; “Among The Wildflowers” tells a story of mental disease and self-image in the context of family history; “In Framing” laments self-harm. These are weighty topics presented in an extremely personal light, and often grounded by hints of easily relatable generalities and details: “I searched for a way out. /Don’t we all?”

The breezy “Housebroken,” in particular appears to be one of the more universal tracks on the album. Veiled in an extended conceit of dogs under the power of their human owners, “Housebroken” tackles the subject of locking oneself behind the walls of societal constraints, and the surrender of freedom for comfort in the world we live in: “Master is all that I’ve got…. /gives me bed, keeps me fed and I’m just slightly nervous /of what I might do if I were let loose, if I caught that mail car or ate garbage for food.”

All of these vignettes are unified in the finality of “Dendron,” which rises and falls in waves of brash and enveloping rock arrangements, just as Holden’s vocal performance admits varying levels of emphasis and pleading, lending special poignancy to a line as simple as “man, I’m sorry every day.” Home, Like Noplace Is There ends in an apologetic and shivering reflection of friends lost, homes broken and societies fundamentally damaging—at last delivering the final, and possibly most emotional and cathartic lines of The Hotelier’s grand performance:

Engraved in the stone

By request and recurse of friends dead is

”Tell me again that it’s all in my head.”

Home, Like Noplace Is There, if the world is a just place, will make waves. This is the kind of album that makes young music-lovers pick up a guitar or a microphone; the kind of album that turns a casual listener into a lifelong fan. It should be what Taking Back Sunday’s Tell All Your Friends and Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity were to fans in the late 90s and early 2000s. It should rekindle a love for emotional music perhaps abandoned by listeners who perhaps believed they’d grown out of. But most importantly, Home, Like Noplace is There should change lives, should incite a need to be better, a yearning for a world better understanding and more forgiving and flexible. Home reflects the lowest, most hopeless points in the lives of young adults—but it leaves the possibility of change and growth wide open. The Hotelier have set the bar for 2014, not only for punk music or music in general, but for everyone on a personal level. And I think that’s the highest compliment a record can get from me.

NOTE: This review originally ran here in my college newspaper The Minaret.

A Space To Grow: The End of The Dangerous Summer

I talk a lot about music’s ability to conjure up memories of younger days and retired mindsets—but in doing this I find that I often understate a more important notion of the affective nature of the songs and records that we invite into our lives. It ultimately leaves some distaste when said aloud, and perhaps it really has been said too many times already, by myself or otherwise. But I believe it deserves repeating. Music changes our lives, latently and consciously. It’s ultimately a rather mysterious force, perhaps employed and administered by other, even more mysterious forces beyond our comprehension. And I can say this from experience—music falls into our laps when we need it most.

I heard what was a song inside the earth, I put my ear to the ground and I sang with every word.

tds_reachforthesun_300The Dangerous Summer fell into my lap when I needed it most. Young and needlessly distressed, unhappy and unable to understand why—this was the point in my life where music became more than just files on a computer. I vividly remember reading this review and saying out loud, “wow.”

And, there I was, almost 15 years old, at an FYE in Florida, with a copy of Reach For The Sun in my hands. Thank god my parents were feeling generous that day.

I remember liking it well enough the first time I listened, remember singing along to the chorus of “Where I Want To Be” immediately, remember feeling especially shocked at the emotional impact of “Weathered.” But it wasn’t time for Reach For The Sun to truly hit me yet. That moment wouldn’t come until a few months later.

I think I’m ready to sing this time.

2014-04-06 12.54.44The Dangerous Summer broke the ice at the first show I ever went to. My sister, the ultimate catalyst of my love for music, took me to see Ace Enders (still to this day my favorite man in music) for my 15th birthday. I remember being in a strange state of shock—trying to see if it was acceptable to sing along to “Surfaced,” or if it was okay to bob my head or move at all. That strange feeling of immobilization at the sight of Enders, one of my heroes, playing some of my favorite songs in front of me.

And then it was over—and I tried my best to retain these images of one of my favorite experiences of my life. But, while that show added fuel to the fire of musical exploration, it’s not what I remember most from that hot summer night.

I remember I-95 in my sister’s red mustang. I remember a late drive and a strong desire for breakfast food. I remember Reach For The Sun.

“That band was really good, put that record on.”

And that’s when The Dangerous Summer really came into my life. I knew every word. “Where I Want To Be” rang in my head when that one girl would sit next to me; “Surfaced” would burst from my lips whenever a catharsis was necessary; “Reach For The Sun” would mix up my brain with possibility; and “Weathered” would consistently inspire me to create. I felt stuck and stagnant, but Reach For The Sun gave me hope that this wouldn’t always be the case, and propelled me through all of the bullshit when it seemed like I had no other choice but to wallow in it.

Come down, all the fighting’s over; I’ll let you breathe your own air.

TDS_cover-2So then there was War Paint, and the relationship forged was just as strong, if not stronger than with Reach For The Sun. War Paint played me out of high school, just as Reach For The Sun played me in. And this is fitting, since War Paint has a different, fierier aura to it—a kind of forward motion about it, a little rawness in its presentation. A consciousness of the internal issues which plagued the narcissistic narrator of Reach For The Sun’s night-time deluge of death and personal desire, but with a driving mission to defeat it and move forward, get out, and start again.

Find the courage to paint a world that burns like hell, not for allure but mostly for yourself.

I needed this when I lost the high school safety net—I needed someone beside me moving forward, getting out, starting again. And with War Paint in my ears—I wanted to make my past look trivial. I wanted to leave my room with the sound of spacey guitars behind me and build something for myself. That desire burns still, and The Dangerous Summer helped facilitate it.

I’ll never love Golden Record like I love the other two records. I’ll never try and justify the antics of the members. I’ll admit that The Dangerous Summer was occasionally a very difficult band to love because of said antics. But the fact remains—I grew up with The Dangerous Summer.

Hell, I’m still growing up with The Dangerous Summer. Just last week, I listened to “Waves” while preparing for the most important interview of my life so far. And as my brain fluttered and liquefied in a wash of nerves and anticipation, I stopped. I put my ear to the ground. I sang with every word.

Don’t make a ceiling inside your clouds, just let them grow with your plans.

I took a breath. Now, I have the biggest opportunity of my life in front of me.

The Dangerous Summer is part of that. It’s startling and actually quite frightening, but it’s absolutely true to say that I would be a different person without this band. This realization has influenced my career path, my perception of the world, and, most of all, my perception of myself. And through all of the bullshit with the band’s members, and the many reasons I have to dislike The Dangerous Summer—I just can’t ignore the impact it’s had on my life. I’ll have time to discuss the problems, but as The Dangerous Summer leave the stage forever I know that now is the best time to express gratitude.

So thanks, TDS, for leaving us with your songs and for giving me a space to grow when I really needed it.