The Hotelier were inarguably 2014’s breakout band, at least in their niche. Home, Like Noplace Is There was heralded upon release as an instant classic, with particular praise centered on the album’s intimate lyricism and ambitious thematic scope. Following the album’s warm reception, the Hotelier’s label bought the rights to the band’s debut full-length, the significantly less known It Never Goes Out, and decided to re-release it as a physical record for the first time (it was only released digitally initially in 2011).
While Home was the band’s breakout and many a fan’s introduction to the group, It Never Goes Out does not deserve to be overlooked. It’s a masterful exercise in pop-punk, and made even more impressive for being the work of kids in only their late teens. Opener “Our Lives Would Make a Sad, Boring Movie” is as far acry from Home‘s “An Introduction to the Album” as can be – it might not seem very impressive or unique upon a cursory listen, but after a couple more listens things get more pronounced – the song’s subtle dynamic shifts, its tactful take on the “9-to-5” life.
So where the band really shines, as fans of Home know, is on the slower tracks. The most creative of these is likely “Weathered,” a Weakerthans-esque, harmonica-laden indie song that slowly builds for its entire four minute runtime to a singalong climax. But the album’s best tracks are “An Ode to the Nite Ratz Club” and “Title Track (There Is a Light)” (Interestingly enough, the band seems to agree, as these are their most frequently performed songs from this album live). “Nite Ratz” is a stream of consciousness coming of age story to rival your favorite John Hughes movie; built around a bouncy guitar and Christian Holden‘s smooth voice, it’s a relatively simple song, but that only makes it more effective.
Holden’s every line hits harder over a sparser backdrop, culminating when he drops the diary entry of a lyric, “And we thought we’d live forever until the night that / it got way too serious / and you showed me your damaged wrists,” and the band kicks into full gear with a rousing guitar riff. “Title Track” is an apt album closer, thematically tying together every previous song and wrapping them up nicely. Musically, it seems to serve as a sort of prototype for “Dendron,” with its quiet-loud-quiet-very-loud structure. That doesn’t mean it’s underdeveloped, however, as it’s a slice of genuine throwback 90s emo (a la Braid) goodness hardly seen again since, carried by some of the album’s best lyrics.
Don’t get me wrong, the band’s more punk-influenced songs don’t falter either. “Vacancy” is likely the most straightforward song on the album, being one of only three to feature a real chorus, but it succeeds even in this. It takes a certain degree of passion to make a line like “You can’t fix me / ’cause I’m so burnt out” not sound bratty and childish, but Holden does it. The one two punch of “I’m Gone” and “Holiday” makes for a nice setup into the album’s finale; the former features guitarist Zack Shaw providing lead vocals all the way through for a change (he’s usually relegated to trading off with Holden), and his voice sounds more youthful than his counterparts’ – he fits the faster tempo arguably even better than Holden. “Holiday” is a minute-long interlude that features the band embracing double time to surprisingly positive results.
For fans who are only hearing It Never Goes Out for the first time now, it will surely be a treat. Shades of the band’s slightly more streamlined sound crop up at times here: the way “Introduction” somewhat parallels “Weathered,” structurally, how the screamed verse in “Title Track” hints at heavier influenced explored more on Home, Like Noplace Is There, and the way Holden’s lyrics hint at a maturity fully displayed later on.
When stacked against their sophomore effort, it’s easy to see how the band progressed – but it’s also easy to see they didn’t need to progress very much. Even on its own, It Never Goes Out is an incredible album and a testament to the band’s talent. When they’re eventually regarded as a classic in the genre, this album will be remembered as the first hint of their brilliance.