Here's an album that almost slipped through my attention net at the end of the summer. Chicago's Hospital Job released their fourth full length album Haze Like Me on August 31st through Rad Girlfriend Records. For those unaware, Hospital Job is the side project of Luke McNeill of Chicago pop punk legends The Copyrights. The Copyrights are one of my favourite bands in the pop punk genre so I was looking forward to checking out this effort from Hospital Job.
Haze Like Me starts with the song Devices Got Design. As you might expect we have some energetic buzzsaw pop punk here that actually has me thinking of Direct Hit. The opening vocals are delivered in such a way where they seem to be melodic but also very punchy. I'm not sure how they managed to do this but it really helps draw you into the song immediately. I loved how the song is structured, breaking away from the verse chorus verse formula that is the norm. Instead the song has all of its verses at the beginning before finishing with the big chorus. Up next is the song Darts. This has a darker tone for its opening couple of verses before moving into a big melodic sing-along chorus that really brought the mood of the track up. Darts is about how no matter where you end up you'll always find the same trials and tribulations of the place where you started and how it's best to try and fix problems rather than run from them. The third song, Mount Rushmore, starts with a big opening sequence before switching towards some more subtle vocals. The same melodic pop punk style that I've come to expect from Hospital Job is still there but the vocals seem less in your face than normal. The chorus is as atmospheric as you would expect from the man behind The Copyrights lyrics and will have you shouting along with your fist high in the air.
Sheets In The Freezer again has a bit of a Direct Hit feel to it. It's a very wordy song but this doesn't mean it feels cluttered or hard to sing along with. Quite the opposite in fact. The song is infectious and with every listen you find something new to fall in love with. The chorus is the stand out – McNeill providing the melody with his vocals and being accompanied by a simple drum beat. Simple but oh so effective. The Purest Wifi In Western Europe is a very synth heavy pop track, similar to another Luke McNeill side project, Starter Jackets. The synth adds a whole load of drama to the opening of the track and offers a unique pulling point that you don't often hear in pop punk. I loved how throughout the track the vocals sound layered and almost like gang vocals, this adds another huge element to the song that makes it impossible to ignore.
All Gone opens in a subdued manner, to me it sounds quite moody and wintery. If winter has a sound that is? It's a slower paced track that never really hits any big highs but still has a wonderfully catchy chorus. The track not having that high spot works well with the theme of the song which is about losing everything and having to start again. I particularly enjoyed the harmonies in the song's finale. Vicodin Dream is super heavy on the synth. It's got quite a long introduction that builds nicely. You expect that the song will explode into life after this building intro but instead we get a quiet section that was really not expected. This surprise is what kept me interested though and had me thinking "where will this go next?". The song does eventually get to that big point that I was expecting at the end of the track with the words "it's so dark" being repeated over some more great harmonies and some more synths.
Dead End Street is one of the big stand out tracks on Haze Like Me. Its brilliance is in its seemingly simplicity. It's got a traditional song structure that doesn't offer any surprises. This allows you to get familiar with the song very quickly and you will soon be shouting along to that fantastic chorus. There's a darkness in the song as McNeill sings about living in a bad place and feeling like you can't escape. The penultimate track on Haze Like Me is titled Collars On Ashes. This is a very melancholic song about feeling depressed and stuck in a rut and struggling to go about your life. I really liked the structure of the lyrics on this track. The lines are all short which makes it very easy to follow the song and really soak in everything that's said. By the end of the track, it's feeling like an anthem with some perfectly layered vocals making Collars On Ashes sound huge. The album is concluded with Living Well. Comfortably the longest song on Haze Like Me, Living Well opens up with a very synth heavy introduction before suddenly switching into some crunching guitars and pounding drums. It's quite startling and extremely effective. This ensures that Haze Likes Me finishes in quite the fashion. The final lyrics of "what's the point in living well, if I know that you can't tell" will remain firmly lodged in your head for days.
Luke McNeill has got to be one of the most prolific songwriters in the pop punk world, constantly churning out banger after banger. If you like his other projects, be sure to check out Haze Like Me by Hospital Job. A great album to add to a very impressive body of work.
Stream and download Haze Like Me here: https://hospitaljob.bandcamp.com/
Like Hospital Job here: http://facebook.com/hospitaljob217
This review was written by Colin Clark.