Hotel Books


Written by: PP on 05/01/2018 23:37:41

Is there anything more pathetic than packaging honesty as entertainment?, asks spoken word mastermind Cam Smith on "From Porterville", in what becomes a quintessential question that is explored throughout and ultimately comes to define what the latest Hotel Books album "Equivalency" is all about. It's a balancing equation between self-reflection over broken relationships, and the realization of your band's growth and its resulting image, or rather, its role, in being exactly what their fans need them to be, and as a result, the conflicting artistic decisions that follow, which are almost automatically forced upon you as your act becomes more popular.

It's a rather surprising twist in the lyrical universe of Hotel Books, that has so far largely consisted of Cam Smith's emo-poetry godhood drenched in fragile honesty and introspective lyricism. To call it sermons of self-reflection and stream-of-consciousness analysis about topics of love, despair and heartbreak describes only the surface of "Run Wild, Stay Alive" and "Run Wild, Young Beauty", two masterpieces that provided words to feelings you couldn't previously describe through fearless honesty and piercing introspection.

In comparison, "Equivalency" is a little more difficult to relate to given how it largely revolves around Cam Smith's personal struggle about what Hotel Books is, what it should be, and what it will be in the future: "we just hoped our rebellion would look like rebellion rather than what it is: a target for millennials to put their faith in", as Cam rages on "I Knew Better, But Did Nothing", for instance, or on "Take Very Little", where his blunt honesty and self-reflection comes out rather blatantly: "[...] and pretend I'm the fearless leader you want me to be / because without this fake personality I would be performing in the streets".

That said, when we deep-dive into emotional charges of relationship analysis, Cam Smith and Hotel Books once again prove the genius behind their expression: ravaging poetry spiced with just enough post-hardcore and instrumentals to amplify the effect of the lyrical universe. "Violent Smile", for instance, is stunningly beautiful in its dissection of relationships:

"When asked why people break up, there is not one simple answer. [...] Sometimes, relationships end because partners evolve over time. Sometimes, they end because one partner does not feel deserving of love. Sometimes they end due to infidelity or due to thoughts of such actions. And sometimes, maybe more often than not, they just end".

Such chilling clarity is rare to come by, and it is only fortified because this part is read aloud in emotionless fashion by a machine-generated female voice that draws thoughts towards the more philosophical movies dealing with artificial intelligence that knows better than humans.

Strictly stylistically speaking, "Equivalency" is a softer and more melodic album than its post-hardcore fueled predecessor. We're back in the minimalistic world of their early material for the most part, but on the other hand, there are songs here which sound almost nothing like Hotel Books given their alternative rock style. "Van Nuys" and "Celebration" being the key examples.

So what to think about "Equivalency" overall, then? It's a difficult album because the band is on the verge of a breakthrough and you can sense the conflicts it causes internally within Cam Smith. As such, the songs are a little less relatable than before, but no less genius in their poetry and exhibition of vocabulary, rhythmic delivery and intense emotional charge and honesty. While competitors like September Stories and Saviour are starting to get there, Hotel Books are still light years ahead of their peers when it comes to spoken word based music.


Download: From Porterville, Van Nuys, Violent Smile, Fears We Create
For the fans of: Saviour, Listener, September Stories, La Dispute, Being As An Ocean
Listen: Facebook

Release date 27.10.2017
InVogue Records

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