Our Demon Brother
here is no greater dread that being dragged to a show because a friend of yours turns out to know one of the band members. How often does that sort of thing turn out well? I would never have seen Toronto outfit Hotel play if not for the fact that, in addition to drummer Pete being a friend-of-a-friend, they were opening for Elefant (whom I wanted to see anyway).
Lucky for me, it turns out. At this point, I’m as used as anyone who writes about music is at skillfully deflecting away records and demos from crap local bands whose guitarist’s brother knows a friend of a relative etc etc etc; the fact that I got a review copy of Hotel’s new mini-album Our Demon Brother from Pete after the show has less to do with any connection to the band and more to do with how good their set (to a half-empty Lee’s Palace, no less) was. The quintet, playing to a few fans and a bunch of people who had mostly never heard of them, locked down and played an explosive set of menacing, layered rock, whether surging forward on the almost motorik ‘Pink Crack’ or adopting a more stately pace on ‘One More Night In Hundred’.
The album is (shock, horror) not quite as good as the show was; the culprit is mostly Jordan Zadorozny’s production, erring a bit too much towards a smooth shiny surface and in the process minimizing the band’s prodigious rhythm section and guitar interplay. But where the songs here pulse smoothly instead of roaring to life, they’re still pretty damn good songs; it’s not surprising Hotel find themselves opening for bands like Elefant and Interpol, although darkly majestic rockers like ‘Collect Yourself’ and ‘Striped’ owe less to angular post-punk and more to the Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen, in mood if nothing else.
Put simply, Hotel have an ear for a tune that few bands working in comparable fields do these days. They’re plowing their own furrow of nocturnal epics that put them in good company, but crucially elevates them out of the mass of bands just following up on the leading lights of the eighties rock revival. Hotel’s version of an update of that sound is less fashionable than others’ (i.e. early U2 is another reference you could make), but the last band I know of to make a record of unabashedly widescreen rock work so well was Whipping Boy, and that was in 1995.
So Hotel have the songs, the chops and the sound, what they need now is more exposure and a producer more sympathetic to the ferocity of their live show. If they get all that, they’ll have more than just a cult following. In fact, they could be contenders.
Reviewed by: Ian Mathers
Reviewed on: 2004-03-04