The Last Hotel – S/T

For the last three years, I’ve been taught to systematically begrudge anything and anyone that calls Columbus, Ohio, home. You see, friends, I am a Wolverine. A Michigan Wolverine, and there exists a bitter feud between my esteemed university and the bastion of mediocrity that is Ohio State. I cannot be blamed: Buckeyes are a shameful, deceitful folk. Their “Hate Michigan” week is well-documented, and their tendency to riot and burn upon beating Michigan only cements my disdain. Realize my dilemma: Journalistic integrity vs. childish prodding.
Well, let’s get the journalistic integrity over with, shall we? The Last Hotel is, for all intents and purposes, a pop band. It parades five members around in the usual style: lead/rhythm guitars, keys, rhythm section. The band makes pleasant up-tempo rock that hinges on the pipes of Ryan Horns, which are admittedly strong, if a bit underdeveloped.
As far as pop music goes, the band’s finest stroke is the first: “I’ll Never Mind” is a fine slice of summery guitar grandeur, with slightly affected vocals and a cascading piano line. Unfortunately, the rest of the album is five mostly interchangeable songs that all ride a in a Jeff Buckley/U2 train holds too straight to the middle of the road.
Part of the problem lies in the arrangements. For a band that sounds fairly accomplished musically, it does very little with five band members. The instruments used are terribly mundane, and those that are used barely tap their potential. The piano rummages around, usually mixed too low to make a sonic impact. For his designation as a “lead” guitarist, Keith Jenkins does a fine job blending in. When he is present, Jenkins seems to favor the same clean arpeggios that Coldplay is cashing in on as you read this. The rhythm section is stale bread.
“You Talk So Loud” is a fine example of what plagues this group. It’s the group’s most compositionally complex song, to be sure, but the plinking banjo is too easily buried, and the organ that drones nicely behind the song does so far too meekly. “Forgetting” fares a bit better, as it hums along cleanly over simple chord changes. For his part, Horn does a pretty good job. Though occasionally losing himself in wanking Buckley yelps, his high-tenor holds the songs together when the band falls apart. The songwriting isn’t superb, but it’s catchy enough, and with a bit more practice, Horn could develop into a fine pop songwriter.
The Last Hotel comes off sounding pretty good on wax. Closer listens reveal some flaws in the game plan, but with a little more creativity this band could go places. As of now, it’s simply a bread and butter pop band that doesn’t quite have the songwriting chops to make an impact. Oh, and by the way, Buckeyes: 35-21.