Much has been made of the resurgence of sprechgesang deliveries and wry verbosity in UK indie over the past couple of years, and not without reason: experience the James Joyce-meets-Hannah Diamond allusions of Black Country, New Road or the vivid yarn-spinning of Sinead O’Brien, and it’s hard not to be exhilarated by their fresh approach to vocal performance.
Portsmouth-via-London quintet Hotel Lux are the latest frayed-around-the-edges rock band to try their hand at this loosely-defined strain of post-punk and spoken word. It’s not got quite the same psychosexual power of the aforementioned, but it’s no worse off for it – their new EP ‘Barstool Preaching’ is a welcome change in approach.
Opening track ‘Tabloid Newspaper’ sets the tone. It romps along efficiently, threatening to streamline into a serviceable Krautrock-y cyclical groove before frontman Lewis Duffin sets out his stall as a knowing Eddie Argos to BC,NR frontman Isaac Woods’ demonic Mark E. Smith. Later when he references Danny Dyer and Stella Artois against a backdrop of pub rock, there’s no clever juxtaposition or descriptive wordplay – but this kind of no-frills literalism might be exactly the point
Hotel Lux are audibly besotted by the particular Southern English backroom rhythm-and-blues lineage of Dr Feelgood, The Blockheads et al which favours the beauty and profundity of the everyday – it’s those moments where ‘Barstool Preaching’ thrive. The conviction of their delivery carries the tracks through this treacherous thematic territory.
Duffin has undeniable charisma as a frontman, and is at his best when he hams up the performance. Such as on the over-pronounced drawl of ‘Charades’, the most engaging track here by some distance. His bandmates’ instrumentation, too, frequently coalesces into the sleazy swagger that few groups are able to get right.
There’s a spirited energy here that goes some way towards papering over the cracks of ‘Barstool Preaching’ (although little can drown out the discomfiting clang of ill-judged lines like “I once contemplated suicide just to see the reaction on my Facebook feed”). By and large, however, the character and promise evident make this a compelling listen no matter the headache in the morning.
Release date: April 24
Record label: Nice Swan