Violent Femmes - Hotel Last Resort - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Violent Femmes - Hotel Last Resort

by Kevin Orton Rating:10 Release Date:2019-07-26
Violent Femmes - Hotel Last Resort
Violent Femmes - Hotel Last Resort

The Violent Femmes are back. Well, they never left really. Just took breaks every now and then. But Hotel Last Resort might just be their finest offering since Hallowed Ground. Check in and your stay begins with the humble request, “Please don’t sing another chorus, that’s the thing that starts to bore us.” Ironically, you won’t be able to walk away from this one without singing the damn chorus.

 ‘I Get What I Want’ finds the band in a playful, yet defiant mood. What starts off like some intimate Ricky Nelson tune, is soon subverted by the sound of Gano slightly cracking himself up. Then Brian Ritchie’s signature thug of an Ernie Ball bass barrels in, taking no prisoners. Start to finish it’s the Femmes doing what they do best. And living up to the moniker, lyrically this tune gives male privilege a much-needed sock in the nose.  ‘I’m Nothing’ follows skewering “politics and dirty tricks”. “I got no time, I’m chasing chicks”, Gano growls. “What’s your reality? It's not real to me. What is your anomaly? It is my destiny.” Another infectious number, chockfull of musical dynamics and sly, deprecating humor.

‘Adam Was A Man’, cites “trouble in paradise” giving Eve much more sympathy than the Book of Genesis ever did. Here paradise is an “asylum of delight”. Who would come up with a line like that other than Gordon Gano?. But duck! Before you know it, ‘Not Ok’ comes at you like a rickety locomotive. I have to say, there’s a very welcome Buddy Holly feel to this tune. There's nothing like Rock & Roll. Give me that over the contrived marketing campaigns that pass for it these days. This is the real stuff.  And thank god the Violent Femmes have a sound instead of a “brand”. One that is all their own. And its pure music to these ears. 

‘Hotel Resort’ makes for one hell of a haunting title track. As an added bonus, that’s Television’s Tom Verlaine on lead guitar. If you’re going to visit, reception recommends that its best to “check out before you check in”. Why? Because “the mission has been pulled, all agents must abort.” What’s more, even our mysterious host is “losing my patience at the Hotel Last Resort.” Dire times, folks. And it seems we’re running up quite a bill.

‘Everlasting You’ might be begging for a dose of piss and vinegar but instead we’re given a gorgeous love song without a hint of cynicism. While the Femmes aren’t exactly known for their ballads, this one is up there with their finest. While far more driving than ‘Good Feeling’ it still touches that bittersweet spot. Once again, there’s an inviting Buddy Holly vibe to this one. Possessing the kind of uncomplicated, timelessness that few bands seem to pull off these days. There’s only one word for this little number: beautiful.

‘Its All Or Nothing’ gives optimism an affectionate knock on the glass jaw while their cover of Pyx Lax’s ‘I’m Not Gonna Cry’ flirts with Grecian pastiche with just the right touch of genuine sorrow. Meanwhile, ‘This Free Ride’ gives a sardonic middle finger to those who think those on welfare are living the easy life. Delving into the kind of impish absurdist imagery that Dylan so excelled at in his Highway 61 days. 

‘Paris To Sleep’ is a world-weary ballad with the telling line, “my brother don’t let the terrorists scare us too deep.” It’s one of the Hotel Last Resort’s most compelling numbers. Full of grace, longing and confusion. All going to show that in the songwriting department, Gordon Gano is at the top of his game.

The dizzying acapella wordplay of ‘Sleepin’ At The Meetin’ finds the Femmes in surreal revival meeting mode. None of which prepares you for their eclectic, dark dirge assault on Irving Berlin’s ‘God Bless America’. Sounding more like a eulogy at a funeral than an anthem of nationalistic pride.  It’s a stunning, unexpected move. The Femmes claiming this mawkish cliché of a song for their very own. Giving it a big dose of Woody Guthrie irony adding in a world music weirdness. Stirring up a melting pot of musical styles, revealing the common Folk threads between East and West. Mournful this threnody may be. Yet it’s also colorfully inclusive of other cultures beyond baseball, apple pie and the 4th of July. The kid gloves come off for what is clearly a swipe at the nationalist populism currently debasing this country. A brilliant ending to one of the most rewarding Femmes albums in years. Speaking of years, it’s been nearly 40 since their Folk Punk debut but with Hotel Last Resort, they’ve never sounded more vital. Viva la Violent Femmes.

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