Are you paying attention, Alanis? For Gordon Gano has, in one fell swoop, accurately demonstrated the true meaning of irony, as he first raps the verses in a kind of Beck ‘Loser‘ stylee and then, in his inimitable voice (Ambrosia of the gods to some, nails down a blackboard to others) proceeds to sing the refrain of “Please don’t sing another chorus / That’s the thing that really bores us” WAY too many times for its own good. It’s a knowing, cheeky wink to fans of the band, and it needs to be, because Hotel Last Resort is largely reminiscent of the earliest album releases by Violent Femmes, and consequently is highly unlikely to win them any new ones. Fortunately for them, I guess, I AM a fan.
All the classic elements are there – the charming, slightly clumsy production (perhaps deliberately so?), Gano’s devout Christianity being offset by bassist Brian Ritchie’s continual atheistic beliefs (especially on the brilliant ‘Adam Was A Man‘, in which the pair seem to be competing with each other, voice versus instrument, to further prove their points respectively), and the trademark guitar hammering technique that Gano has employed since those foetal days of the early 1980s.
Violent Femmes cornered a certain market and became kind of huge underground icons from thereon (“how can a band be so popular yet so unpopular at the same time?” Gordon once said to me whilst musing over the fact they once filled the Royal Albert Hall to capacity), much, in fact, like their guest vocalist on the title track here – Television‘s legendary frontman, Tom Verlaine. You can kind of tell as well, for it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to imagine this particular tune being an original track on the latter band’s seminal 1977 classic Marquee Moon.
One notable curiosity of Hotel Last Resort, however, is relative newcomer John Sparrow’s use of a Weber Grill (a barbeque to the uninitiated) as a percussion instrument, which works a whole lot better than you could feasibly imagine it ought to. Also featuring on this latest offering is skateboarder Stefan Janoski on a reworking of ‘I’m Nothing‘, which featured on Milwaukee’s finest’s 1994 album New Times. It rocks, to be fair, but the standout track here is surely the moody and reflective ‘Paris To Sleep‘ which recalls Jonathan Richman and proves that Gano can still write a powerfully heartfelt ballad along the lines of ‘Good Feeling‘ from that essential debut.
Hotel Last Resort is the best thing Violent Femmes have put out in a long time. On this basis, long may they continue.
God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.