Sunday, February 05, 2023

Classic rock gets a post-punk spin in Hotel Lux debut ‘Hands Across The Creek’

The Hotel Lux album has finally landed. Long-time fans of the band will be aware of the many delays which have made this record unusually long in the making, and will be equally delighted in finding that the end result is even more satisfying than they might have expected. 

The first impression of ‘Hands Across The Creek’, which can deservedly be described as one of the most interesting releases of this early 2023, is not that of a record that has been written and then delayed in time, but of one that has been constantly, continuously worked on, taking the extra time to grow in depth and complexity.

Those who have followed Hotel Lux from their very beginnings, made of high-impact early tracks which were nonetheless little more than spoken-word vocals over incisive guitars, will be stunned – pleasantly so – by the confident complexity which is unleashed here. Those who have been keeping a close eye on the band’s trajectory will see it as the natural end point of a growth that has been constant, incorporating a refreshing curiosity for experimentation, a deliberate search for a greater depth of sound, a desire to build into something more full-bodied and memorable while still remaining loyal to the spirit of Hotel Lux’s stripped-down beginnings.

In a nutshell, ‘Hands Across The Creek’ is accurately described as classic British rock with a vigorous post-punk spin. Lewis Duffin’s snappy vocals, always infused with an ever-present tinge of sarcasm, add an extra edge to the kind of broad-sounding guitars which old Brit-pop glories have once used to great effect. Here they feel almost tainted, like a tale of Great Britain gone wrong, a very good match for the inevitably-political tinge of much of the album themes. Both musically and thematically, there are places in which the album feels like the unholy lovechild of Pulp and The Fall. Other, more recent precursors are worth mentioning too: the dirtier, starker tracks have an echo of early Fat White Family to them; the interplay between the hunting bass and the energetic drums elsewhere shows similarities to some voices of the contemporary scene, Shame first and foremost. Yet the voice of the album overall is inequivocably Hotel Lux. All of their stylistic signatures have been preserved and highlighted to whatever new features are introduced here: from the pub anthem quality which is still there, loud and clear, in tracks like ‘Common Sense’, to the merciless self-analysis of lyrics such as the ones found in ‘Easy Being Lazy’, to the sardonically-political vibe heard perhaps most loudly in single ‘The National Team’. It is still very much the same band which a couple years ago dropped an impressively tight and coherent EP in ‘Barstool Preaching’, but now with a greater maturity and self-awareness put at the service of their sound.

Recent single ‘Points of View’ is perhaps the best summary of this all, taking the core element of the early Hotel Lux songs as the central kernel around which it builds a structure made of boppy backing vocals, cutting guitars, and a headrushing rhythm section giving the song a momentum its blunter predecessors simply didn’t have. Even in its most experimental corners (think for instance ‘An Ideal For Living’, where the tune takes an acoustic turn that is almost Rolling Stones-esque), the resulting impression is that this is a band that has grown very self-aware and very confident of what its voice is, and that feels at ease in putting that voice to the task in a number of different ways. Most of the tracks feel like they would translate smoothly to a live delivery, a perfect fit for the straightforward yet slightly taunting stage presence the band has adopted as a signature trait for their stage appearances.

Classic rock with a post-punk spin may, then, well be the most accurate descriptor for the record, but the truth is that ‘Hands Across The Creek’ is much more than the sum of its parts: almost too mature for a debut, loyal to the band’s spirit but playful in its innovations, unique-sounding even while including a good number of nods to familiar features in the rock-punk musical landscape.


Chiara Strazzulla


Image: ‘Hands Across The Creek’ Official Album Cover

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