I turned on Run Wild, Stay Alive for the first time during a pretty treacherous thunder storm, and the atmosphere couldn’t have been more perfect for the album. Heavy moments were made for spoken word music, after all, and one of the frontrunners of the genre is Porterville, California’s Hotel Books.
Dark musical clouds and rumbles of emotional thunder accompany lyrics that are as heartbreaking as ever. These are the guys that wrote one of the world’s most devastating songs, after all, and they’re not about to let you forget it. Still, things are different compared to what you’ve seen before. For starters, Hotel Books is no longer identifying as a band, opting instead for an art collective to be seen as a foundation for honest art. Then, there’s the fact that the creative input has been cut down to just poet Cam Smith and bassist Kaleb Thibeau. And finally, the most important change: their decision to partner with producer/Chiodos frontman Craig Owens.
Owens’ influence is abundantly clear from track one. While Smith reads off his poems, he edges toward screaming more than you’d expect, which fits pretty damn well with the post hardcore influences saturating the album. Think La Dispute plus Bring Me The Horizon, but with lyrics only Smith could craft (“What if the hollowed-out feeling is a memory that I could barely find?” is an especially hard-hitter). From anthemic beginnings (“Constant Conflicts”) to pit-inducing choruses (“I Think You See Where This Is Headed,” “Lesser”), it’s intense, ferocious, and strays a few paces away from the path you were expecting to find.
It’s not a complete deviation from Hotel Books’ original route, though. When listening back to their previous catalog, it’s easy to tell the melody of Run Wild, Young Beauty returns for the ten tracks, only now it’s fused with the intensity of I’m Almost Happy Here, But I Never Feel At Home. Run Wild, Stay Alive only improves on what they’ve had before, while bringing in an all new outlook that’s helped push them to new heights. They’ve struck a balance between emotionally heavy and headbanging melody that few are able to find.
A lot has changed, but most importantly, everything you listen to Hotel Books for has remained. It’s the perfect album for any existential crisis, and if you’re not spinning it during the next rainy day in your hometown, well, basically, you’re losing.