Heartbeat Hotel is a difficult band for me to review.
Not because they’re bad, or I struggle to have something to say, but their genre is pretty far removed from my usual that I don’t have any quantifiable frame of reference to write anything original, interesting or particularly intelligent. So, pardon me if this review is relatively short and stream-of-conscious-y.
My first and lasting impression of the band, opening for The Wooden Birds at the Drake Underground, was that they reminded me of another local band (and the only exception to my above disclaimer RE: genre), The Postage Stamps (now defunct). The vocals, if one closes one’s eyes, often could be coming straight from the mouth of The Postage Stamps’, and now Hamilton Trading Company‘s, Keith Hamilton. The slow, atmospheric, swirling and echo-y effects driven build of many of their songs was right out of the Stamps’ early playbook. Seeing as I must have seen The Postage Stamps over a dozen times, I genuinely mean that as a compliment.
At the same time, though, because of the stark comparison, I couldn’t shake the feeling of already having been there/done that. Several songs sounded like they were Postage Stamps b-sides — again, not a bad thing, just a dated thing. The Stamps broke up in 2008 after five years of pounding the southern Ontario pavement pretty hard (indeed, I doubt there were many local music fans who managed to avoid the band much between 2002 and 2008), and although Heartbeat Hotel more than adequately fills the hole left by the band three years ago, I wonder if there’s still a viable market in demand of this sort of spacey, psychedelic indie rock?
If the small-but-growing crowd at the Drake Hotel on this evening was any indication, I must just be turning into a curmudgeonly old fart — the kind bored by The White Stripes because Led Zeppelin did it all first. The audience kept a safe, detached distance from the stage (a typical Toronto characteristic), but seemed to pay close attention to Heartbeat Hotel’s set, heaping on a better-than-respectable smattering of applause between songs.
According to ChromeWaves.net, the mostly new and as-of-yet unreleased mellow and tightly-controlled songs from this evening’s performance are a significant departure from the band’s signature loose, “everything and the kitchen sink” wall of noise they have built their reputation on. Praised for a more mature sound, the band seems poised to gain a decent-sized following with its forthcoming LP.
Although I probably won’t personally be rushing out to catch Heartbeat Hotel again soon, I’m glad that a new generation of local music fans have just such a band to love and latch on to.
- Hello Barrel
- Fresh Fruit
Thanks to Heartbreak Hotel, The Wooden Birds and the spectacular Drake Underground.