Review Summary: With the release of their excellent debut, HOTS have shot themselves in the foot by setting their targets too high to be reached.
Left - Hope Of The States
Hope of the States have always been one of those bands that just hang around in your peripheral vision. The closest they have come to total success is scoring#15 in the UK charts with their single The Red the White the Black the Blue from their album, The Lost Riots. After that they were barely heard from again in the mainstream, with the rest of their singles steadily falling down the charts. This is a crying shame because the material here on their sophomore album, Left, is more than worthy of gracing the top spots in the UK charts, far worthier than what is standing there now.
This band has had their fair share of trials on the road that lead them to where they are now. Their guitarist, Jimmi Lawrence, committed suicide in January 2004, just before The Lost Riots was due to come out. Listening to their music, you can sense that something like this would be the case. The music on this album has a prevailing mood of fighting through hardship, and winning.
This album has a reasonable number of gems, not least of which are the opening three tracks (Seconds being more of an instrumental prelude). Blood Meridian and Sing It out let loose a barrage of anger telling people to do what is right. Blood Meridian talking more about societal collapse with burning casinos and nervous police officers simply because ‘someone acted honestly’. Sing It Out carries on down a different vein, with a much more optimistic feel, but still a dose of aggression and frustration simmering just under the surface.
This album is also somewhat politically charged, with quite a few cracks at the way things are done by this Labour government. The most obvious of which is Industry, a short sharp crack at the back handedness and sly way in which political fights are settled and the ruthlessness of the system in general.
HOTS prove once again that they are capable of bringing a highly emotional tearjerker in the form of January. The song is a very personal account of the writer’s mood after Jimmi Lawrence’s suicide. Good Fight also shows the softer side that they do so well and turns out to be one of the album’s highlights, especially when the group of singers comes in during the closing stages of the song, singing ‘We’ll win in another life/ I know we will/ Tomorrow is another chance/ To make the next day better.’
The title track shows more of the scope that the band held on The Lost Riots, being very reminiscent of Black Dollar Bills. It is the most obvious example of how they could have done better with this CD, with this track being the strongest on here. Merely because it is the most familiar after their debut. The orchestra, glockenspiels and soaring vocals are all there and it is a wonderful listening experience.
The technicality on the album is a strange thing. While the individual instruments are nothing to shout about (except possibly the drums, but they only really come through at one point on the whole album), the fact that the 6 members of the band play every single instrument on the album is quite impressive. These imstruments range from such things as guitars and piano to things like violins and harmonicas. The general feel of the music is just one of ambience, which paves the way to the vocals.
Sam Herlihy's singing voice may not be to everyone's taste. it is gruff and never really varies in pitch, but this just adds to the effect of this being an album for the downtrodden. Listening to Blood Meridian though, you can't deny that he has emotion. It is one of the more impressive moments on the album when the vocals enter. Before that point, it is simply a glockenspiel hitting the same notes, and then some guitar feedback and he enters. It sounds almost apocalyptic and this mood carries on down the whole song.
Weighing it all up Left so very nearly hits the mark that the band set themselves. While it is a very competent listen if you have never heard them before, it pales in comparison to it’s predecessor. This band definitely has the potential to turn everything upside down if they should choose to carry on, they just need to find that potential first.