If you believe the overwrought hyperbolic press materials regarded by the band’s own website, The Burning Hotels have to be both the greatest songwriting band of the pop-punk era and the long-lost musical love-child spawned by a ménage-à-trois between The Hives, The Strokes and The Killers.
Some music fans and critics must be buying in; The Fort-Worth Weekly named the band’s EP Eighty Five Mirrors as the greatest album of 2007, and three of its songs made their list of the top ten songs of the decade. With advance word like that, you’d expect Novels, their full-length debut, to be the pop-punk Abbey Road, or at the very least a 2010 answer to The Strokes’ Is This It.
But indeed, this is not it.
The closest you’ll get the band’s hype machine to describing their music is the cryptically non-descriptive line: “forged under the inspiration of post-punk and angular melodies, the Burning Hotels cut through modern rock with driving sounds and propulsive rhythms.” Their melodies may be angular in that they feature tons of cutting guitar crunch, but the hooks themselves are unerringly repetitive; by the end of the album’s cycle, you’ll feel like you’ve heard the same thing a hundred times already.
Why? Because you have heard this music a hundred times before, most recently from the Hives, the Strokes and the Killers. Or, for that matter, on any album by contemporaries of those bands, on a myriad of albums which set themselves apart from the pack because they had something worth saying, or at least a catchy hook to corral us with.
Worse, the “propulsive rhythms” mentioned above are merely constant four-to-the-floor bass drum stomps, with some snare to complement on the backbeat. Beyond that, the band sounds like almost every other punk-pop group to come out in the latter half of the ‘00s, only without anything distinctive to make you want to continue to listen. Aside from “Boy Or A Girl,” the album’s only mildly interesting single candidate, there’s rarely room for even an ounce of verve. There’s also rarely room for more than three or four chords, which, liberally used throughout the album, lead to frequent self-plagiarism.
In the end, Novels could be said to suffer from all that misplaced, frantic promotional material, but even without that working against them, The Burning Hotels have a mediocre album here at best. Only now, their album will be heard by a wider audience with high expectations, which sets this album up for a freefall. The album itself is bland, repetitive and devoid of anything beyond by-the-numbers pop-punk, with nothing to help you remember who these guys are more than a couple listens from now.
In this case you can trust me; willful amnesia never felt so good.
Reprinted with permission from Stereo Subversion.