1.Old Timer /2. Common Sense /3. National Team /4. Eastbound and Down /5. Strut /6. Morning After Mourning /7. An Ideal for Living /8. Points of View /9. Eazy Being Lazy /10. Solidarity Song

Release date: 27 January 202
Label: The State 51 Conspiracy

…or else an ode to a disenfranchised leftist youth

First things first – it has been a while since a band has put messages across in such powerful ways. Indeed, it has been about five years since the release of such a powerful album by a different band aimed at an audience with similar political beliefs but a very different idiosyncrasy. Hotel Hotel Lux coverLux are named after a safe house hotel in Moscow to which communists were exiled, though it failed in its mission as a lot of them ended up being killed during Stalin’s purges. The band, however, has been steadily making its mark since 2017, ever since their surreal song (full with political allegory), ‘The Last Hangman‘. That song, and the accompanying video, left us anticipating their debut album.

What followed that single was another four EPs with accompanying videos and visuals, each starting difficult discussions about the symbolism of quintessential elements of British life – the pub, the crown, the estate. Their songs have been full of prolific political anger, alluding to the manipulation of the lower classes by the upper classes, the failure to abolish toxic masculinity, and other very real and very complex political problems. It is truly the first time in the last 10 years that a band has launched such a targeted political attack on the ills of this country.

And then came the EP ‘Barstool Preaching’ and a different air seemed to have been blown through this band. Line-up changes, lockdowns and a period of introspection lead to an almost complete revamp of the band’s sound. That EP laid the groundwork for ‘Hands Across The Creek‘ in a way that all the other releases didn’t. The anger was toned town, cynicism became prominent, a central character was introduced, and the music was more soul than indie rock or punk. In terms of the visuals, animation was introduced, and the overall sense was that of a band whose music was more polished and easier to consume and relate to.

I don’t really want the foreman’s job nor be a champagne socialist. I don’t really want the nine five grind nor be a psychotherapist…I don’t want to be the ideal bloke…(lyrics: ‘Old Timer‘)

There are two ways of ‘seeing’ this album: through its sonic output and/or through its ideology. I have always looked at the lyrics first so cannot ignore this album’s ideology, but let’s talk about the music to begin with.

The sound

This album’s sound follows the form of 60’s and 70’s soul with some almost funky moments, as it remains minimal based on a stripped- down-to-basics melody with a laid-back feel the emphasises the bittersweet elements of the vocals and lets the lyrics shine through. The spoken word vocals divert attention from the sound and focus it on the theatrical and dramatic delivery of the lyrics. Gone are these riffs that hinted at an imminent emotional explosion that was actually expressed in the older ‘Envoi‘. Lewis Duffin has mentioned Dexys Midnight Runners, The Stranglers, The Specials, Brian Eno, The Jam among other sources of inspiration and, in terms of the music, rhythms and melodies, we can trace them back to these bands and beyond. It is a fact though that the subject matter of the songs that influenced them was very different to the ones in this album. Having listened to this album for many times now, I feel as if it is not the music that motivated me but the lyrics and their delivery.

The stories

Hands Across The Creek‘ is a sonic tale of two sides represented by its two halves. The first half, a political, vitriolic, passive-aggressive attack coming from a self-aware, confident, and ideologically unshakeable character, and the second, a more sensitive, emotionally exposed, even vulnerable individual in a moment of self-reflection that has the potential to shift its destiny to either a positive or a negative direction. One could say that the first half is a bit closer to the releases up to ‘Barstool Preaching’.

It makes it really hard to face the facts when facts aren’t facts(lyrics: ‘Common Sense‘)

The title of this album is full of symbolic meaning about bridging differences and solidarity and yet the 10 songs of this album lay out the reasons why settling differences cannot work on so many levels and for so many reasons. Having created a certain path with their releases since 2017, Hotel Lux have matured and have chosen to present a more controlled version of their previous selves through this album. Hats off to them, as the first step of any socially mature person is to understand the ideological (or other) obstacles that are to be overcome before engaging in any battles.

The first half of the album contains songs that talk about the spread of misinformation as the primary reason for failing to begin meaningful political discussions: masculinity, right and wrong, and existential crises stemming from a deep communication problem. Throughout the album, Hotel Lux portrays a character surrounded by obstacles to finding out a way through life. Some of their lyrics nod to their own upbringing perhaps, and they also make references to the Thatcherite era with the concept of ‘the enemy within’ on ‘Common Sense‘, and talk about one’s “… granddad shooting fascists down” (lyrics ‘Old Timer’) as well as the lazy working-class Tory narrative, and the sell-out socialist (i.e. “…a champagne socialist” in ‘Old Timer’). All of this is delivered with cynicism, successfully disguising anger and without any attempt to build ‘bridges’. Our favourite song from the album ‘Eastbound and Down‘ could not be a more direct critique on the large bonuses handed out to “golden boys and girls” and the ever present social and economic divide that is ever more present during one’s daily commute to the City.

The second half of this album reveals a more emotionally vulnerable side as the main character of the stories is portrayed as seeking some sort of guidance, an ideal, something concrete to believe in, something real worth fighting for. It is only by the last song that one truly understands what a lonely and difficult path this character chooses to follow in order to find this ‘ideal’; the one-way street of finding out ways to fight and define yourself outside circles of specialism and political geniuses. ‘Solidarity Song‘, taking inspiration from Brecht’s iconic poem, dismisses certain political instructors of the Left for leading whole generations to falsely believing in the effectiveness of struggles that (History has shown) were crushed, destroying people’s lives and achieving very little (especially in some circumstances).

This is neither an elitist punk band, nor is it one that shies away from referring to the social cannibalism that is part of our lives these days. Hotel Lux is a band that clearly doesn’t like David Lynch (‘Strut‘ is a dismissal of his work in 3’41”) while it appreciates the much more grounded and relatable poetry of Charles Bukowski. If one can take away something from this album, then it is the crackling question they leave us with:

Whose tomorrow is tomorrow?(lyrics: ‘Solidarity Song‘)

This album is included in our ‘Monthly playlist- Favourite albums January 2023’ which you can access here for free. The band is on a UK tour, the London date of which is the 24th of February.


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