Connecticut punk band Hostage Calm’s latest release, Die On Stage, tries to funnel an array of rock influences into a 10-track LP meant to celebrate “the subsequent post-millennial fatalism permeating today’s youth culture,” as described in its press release. While the album has definite political rock and anarcho-punk undertones, the attempt to meld the distinct sounds of rock and punk from the ’60s to present day creates a somewhat chaotic album, with songs that jump from one sound to another with little cohesiveness between them.
The album opens with “When You Know,” which sets the tone for nine more twinkling, lead-guitar-driven tracks with scattered and surprising barbershop-like harmonies from a truly punk grounded band with obvious ’60s rock ‘n’ roll influences. The opening track channels the Beach Boys’ cheery demeanor, early Beatles’ tight grasp on a melodic pulse and Against Me’s rhythmic control. The listener expects the entire album to follow suit with its upbeat, melody-driven songs, but that is not the case.
The next track, and the album’s current single, “A Thousand Miles Away From Here,” has punchy verses and a low-soaring chorus that is still punk-reminiscent but trades the melodic pulse for a hard-rock, rhythmic guitar-driven crowd mover. “Love Against!” pulls the album back to its original sound, taking the listener for a back-and-forth tug-of-war of musical influences.
“Someone Else,” Die On Stage’s fourth track, is where the wagon starts to veer off the trail. The four-minute song drones on for far too long, repeating the song’s title over and over throughout the chorus, stopping as if the song is finished, then picking up right back where it left off. The track is a sleeper, with the mundane, repetitive chorus burrowing a hole away from the previously stated influences in exchange for what seems like a detached emotional soliloquy.
Die On Stage picks up the pace and revives the group’s original sound in tracks such as “Your Head/Your Heart,” with drum and bass-heavy verses and a catchy, sing-along chorus.
The final track, “Past Ideas of the Future,” rounds out the album, where Hostage Calm’s ’60s-influenced punk sound transitions seamlessly into anthemic arena rock. Self-aware and reminiscent, the song is the album’s best because it captures the lives of millennials in an honest snapshot that anticipates the future in fear — “Genetics and bionics / Could make this place a bit more honest” — while looking back at the equally fearful past: “We shy away in horror at we’ve done / The good intentions just weren’t enough.”
Hostage Calm’s fourth full-length album is a grab bag of guitar riffs and well-placed harmonies. While the album as a whole doesn’t shine as a single entity, a handful of songs demonstrate the band’s ability and show room for growth and sonic improvement.
Contact Rosemarie Alejandrino at [email protected].