Saturday, 23 September 2017

Future Classic: Home, Like NoPlace Is There by The Hotelier (by Richard Mair)

The idea of an album being a future classic is a hard one to judge. Having been introduced to punk through The Offspring's “SMASH”, Green Day's “Dookie” and Rancid's “... and Out Come the Wolves” it's easy to look back on those albums 20+ years later and appreciate how they blew the scene open; and since then punk hasn't gone away; sure it's had different trends and vogue moments but generally speaking it's still as accessible albeit maybe not as popular as it was back in the mid 90's. Therefore for me to identify a potential future classic is hard as I'm looking back over 20 nostalgic years trying to find something that could have as large a cultural impact as those three iconic albums from my formative teenage years.

Recently I think punk has gone through somewhat of a renaissance akin to the 90s explosion where social commentary, political awareness and song writing craft have taken centre stage perhaps as a reaction to some of the showy screamo fads of the early millennium years; particularly in the DIY scene with labels such as Tiny Engines, Red Scare Industries and No Sleep allowing bands to create statements as opposed to a desire to shift units. One album that really benefits from this and should be held in high regard as a shining example of punk from the 20teen years is The Hotelier's "Home Like NoPlace is There".

Around its release I remember the album generating a significant buzz, not because of it being highly anticipated, indeed their debut album has probably found more of an audience in recent years than it did when first released. The buzz came organically based on the strength of the songs streamed prior to its release. Both "Your Deep Rest" and "Life in Drag" felt like emotional hand grenades. While both completely different in tone and feel, the qualities they displayed suggested that on its release the album could be something special. I'm generally sceptical that such songs streamed ahead of a release are likely to be the highlights of the album, so on the morning it was unleashed, I like many people downloaded the link with some form of excitement and anticipation I was unprepared for the emotional roller coaster I was about to embark on.

"An Introduction to the Album" kicks things off; it's subtle musical background giving way to Christian Holden's voice which generates much of the tune and melody, especially in the early stages whilst the song builds. To describe it as a beautiful song doesn't do it justice, but by the 3:30 minute mark its sucked you in with its crescendo of drum beats, and Christians now painful yelps; in fact everything you can expect to feel on the album is covered in this first song, giving its title a portentous feeling.

The album has a real anger to it and the feelings of guilt, loss and regret permeate the whole album. It also has a real element of isolation and has some difficult subject matter contained within it; "Among the Wildflowers" and "Housebroken" perhaps the two obvious tracks where the theme of abuse is very overt and at times painful to listen to, but this is why the album is such a classic, it never takes the easy option with the subject matter; it always wants the listener to feel that anger and have that emotional connection and I can't think of another album in recent history that has had that effect on me in such a way.

The album finishes with "Dendron", which is an odd closer given it always feels like a sibling to "An Introduction to the album", in fact I usually start with Dendron (maybe because I love it so much, but the flow into the first song with the closing refrain of Dendron is perfect), again highlighting the craft of the band to put the album together as one piece. As a standalone song it’s the real high point of the album; in fact so good it’s possibly the finest song to close an album since Weezer’s Blue Album epic of “Only in Dreams”; again capturing the feelings and emotions of everything that went before it and releasing it in a cathartic explosion of noise.

From start to finish the album is a masterclass, it's pure punk rock perfection; it's emotional, it's socially aware, it's angry and it's tons of fun to sing along to in small venues with arms around strangers and beers aloft; so what should make this stand out as a future classic compared to some of its contemporaries? When looking at those releases from the mid-90s it's important to note that they weren't debut releases or new bands; these were groups who had captured a feeling or a moment in time and helped launch it to a wider audience. All three were coming off the back of generally positive if unspectacular releases, but managed to capture a moment in time and tap into the psyche of the malaise and disaffection brewing in youth culture. For me these were the first albums that really spoke to me and therefore something that can have such an emotional connection will always hold the test of time.

I could discuss politics and social issues with anyone until I'm blue in the face. The last few years for many people have been a struggle. We now have the first generation who can realistically not expect the same standard of living as their parents, but who are probably the most educated they have ever been. We have a generation of young people saddled with debt, unable to have a place to call their own and higher rates of mental health conditions than any other group; it’s also very clear that through the internet and social media many more people are exposed to circumstances, situations and experiences that can have traumatic and lasting impacts. It's in this context that “Home Like NoPlace is There” exists, and it’s also there to offer us comfort and hope and comfort reminding us we aren’t alone; to reach out when we need to and to look after each other. Like those albums from my formative years this is a genuine cross-over success with enough to keep members of various sub-factions of the scene happy, and should be applauded for being a stunning piece of art and social commentary that defies categorisation. For those still to experience its pleasures, please give it a home!

Stream and download Home, Like NoPlace Is There here:

Like The Hotelier here:

This Future Classic was nominated by Richard Mair.

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