Album number three finds Massachusetts Punk trio The Hotelier exploring a broader, more commercial, and grown up sound that takes them far beyond the emo-revival categorisation they had previously been pigeonholed with. Goodness is an ambitious and surprisingly subtle set of songs that exhibit the exhilaration of say, The Gaslight Anthem, alongside a real sense of experimentation. There's a winning formula here, with Christian Holden's vocal performance more measured and less abrasive than on their sophomore effort - Home, Like Noplace Is There. Goodness certainly doesn't re-invent the wheel, but it's a shining example of cleverly structured and enduringly catchy Punk Rock.
The album is divided into a three-act structure; indeed the title of the final song 'End Of Reel' gives a very strong clue as to the intention to imbue the album with an almost cinematic scope. It's that song title and the very final seconds of the album's forty-seven minute runtime that provide the real payoff, like a twist in a good thriller. The unaccompanied drum beats echo those that close the first full song of the album 'Goodness Pt.2', it's then that you realise the reel itself is a repeating loop of songs. Holden refers to a "perfect circle" and "Venn diagrams" during 'Settle The Scar', it's only when you reach the record's conclusion that you realise he's been planting seeds throughout to the albums true nature.
To introduce the three acts the band insert short interludes named after the co-ordinates of rural areas in their home state, interestingly all relate to areas close to bodies of water. The first of these tracks opens the album, and it's a bold choice. A spoken word lone vocal recites poetry before the band roars into life for 'Goodness Pt.2'. It's really the other two of these songs that provide a brief respite and time for contemplation, as snatched lo-fi snippets of references to the moon (presumably to emphasise the album's cyclical nature) punctuate the narrative that Holden develops.
Even on the more straightforward guitar driven material there's a sense that each band member is trying to subvert your expectation and push boundaries. Sam Frederick's drumming in particular changes tempo without warning where you'd least expect it, but rather than becoming disconcerting and fuelled by teenage-angst these choices are exhilarating and propel the album forward. Essentially that's the attraction here, it's like exploring an album of songs you assume you've heard a thousand times before and realising there was a new way to communicate a familiar message. It's not perfect of course, there are moments where the band retreats to its comfort zone, but for the most part this is intelligently crafted Punk Rock that's surprisingly complicated.
The nakedly honest album cover may suggest there's some shock value here, there isn't, but it does perfectly illustrate that there are new ways of looking at even the most familiar of things. It's commendable that a young band can produce such a literate album that tries to push a genre forward. By the time the record finishes you're filled with the overwhelming sense that the trio really has created something that's filled with goodness.
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