When you name one of your songs All my Asshole Friends and then have another running with the order to call Dave Sharkey to the Dance Floor (with an ironic Sweet Jane intro quote), you're obviously demonstrating uncommon wit. Backing it up is a sophisticated arrangement mentality that creates a shimmeringly ringing atmosphere of sound not unlike a meeting of mellow shoegaze, narcotized happy-happy Killing Joke, and a magisterial…oh, I dunno, let's say The Eagles or The Hollies. Weird, right? Well Hotel Lights' third CD, Girl Graffitti, takes a little getting used to in that it has the oddest blend of WAY laid back vocals and orchestrally announced instrumentalities, a reversal of writing and recording norms. It works, but the combination gobsmacks ya. In more than one way, I was reminded of an old obscure favorite ensemble I still listen a lot to: Rain Parade.
Rain Parade had the same billowing psychedelic tendencies that Hotel Lights wallows in, but the former was much more ethereal where HL's bent contains a power vastly more mapped out, huge, arcane, lustrous. RP was willowy, wispy, gorgeous but sketched instead of painted: HL erects an architecture that takes over. And that's where the vocals, most of them harmonized, just play hell with expectations. Where you expect a thunderingly operatic presence, one instead gets quaaluded angels. The last time I heard quite this take on the device was way back when, in the Byrds catalog. But where the Byrds altered volume, pitch, and inflection, Hotel Lights maintains the same levels throughout. It's almost a shock when the lullaby Super 8MM wafts through the speakers: the axes match the larynxes! Even so, the tableau is incredibly lush, building as it progresses, almost weeping in its sensitivities while luxuriating in Elysian fields.
'Skyblown sibilance' might best characterize this CD, emo to the Nth degree. Along with Sipo, Daniel Park, and a gratifyingly large slice of the newer generations' innovative thinking and executions, Hotel Lights is another in a line of artists ushering music into new manifestations, demanding the listener come to the feast with aesthetic breeding and decorum, expecting intelligence for intelligence—and, o ye dinosaurs of rock and roll past, it is my pleasure to announce that the future is in damn good hands, that, to quote Townshend, the kids are alright…and more. Laying ear to such materials, and my gig here at FAME has exposed me to a wealth of them, you're going to be sad as fuck that you have to one day die and not see what's over even their horizon.
Oh, and you have to read the lyrics as well, supplied in the liner. With vocals mostly obscured in the mellifluously swampy sonic delivery, they're worth the separate attention. Darren Jessee, the central force of Hotel Lights, has a generous slice of Jon Anderson's (Yes) stream-of-consciousness brilliance in his wordsmithing, but in a much more Everyman fashion.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles