When I first saw the cover for Hostage Calm’s third album, “Please Remain Calm”, I thought I knew what the disc would sound like. The band’s name, the album’s title and the artwork, which is a little reminiscent of the cover to Cobra Skulls “American Rubicon” cd, made me think that I’d soon be hearing a political street punk album but what came out of the stereo when I put this disc on was something completely unexpected. Sure, there are political lyrics on the album, several songs are about America’s economic failures but it was the overall sound that surprised me. Hostage Calm is not your average punk band. Hell, personally I wouldn’t call them a punk band at all. Yes, there are elements of punk in both the music and the lyrics but this band is influenced by many styles of music dating all the way back to the British invasion in the 1960’s and they all show up on this album, many times within the same song. Chris, the vocalist sounds like a cross between Ben Folds and Josh Carterer of the Smoking Popes singing songs that would make Bruce Springsteen proud. And on the musicians side, there’s a healthy helping of Beatlesque pop, some late 80’s, early 90’s alternative sounds and some mid 90’s punk crunch. Now usually when a band tries to showcase so many styles at the same time it ends up in disaster but not in this case; “Please Remain Calm” is an incredible album, not one that is easily categorized but incredible none the less.
There are many standout tracks on this ten song disc; I’m going to tell you about four of my favorites.
The album’s opener “On Both Eyes” is both a brilliant song and a great example of what you’re going to hear throughout the rest of the album. The song has a little bit of everything, the verses have a poppy alternative sound that reminds me of the 80’s band XTC, the chorus has a little more of a sing along punk feel and a bit of aggression shows up towards the end. Lyrically, this song is about the lack of decent jobs and the failed housing market in the United States but the first time you hear it, it sounds more like a track about a failing relationship.
That feeling of a failed relationship also shows up in “Patriot”. Again, upon first listen this one sounds like a song about a lost love but further listens, and the song’s title itself reveal that the broken relationship Chris sings about isn’t one with a significant other but one with his country. The majority of this song is almost a capella, other than the tambourine and the rest of the instruments come in near the end. Cool song that stands out against an album full of original songs.
“The M Word” is another one that I want to mention. This is the song where Hostage Calm sound the most like The Smoking Popes, but with the addition of a violin. The song is about trying to talk an abused woman named Meredith out of marrying her abuser. This one has a cool little horn break near the end.
The last track I’m going to write about is called “Closing Remarks”. The reason I want to bring up this song, besides the fact that it’s a good song is because it’s one of the more punk sounding songs on here. This is a track that would fit well on a band like Green Day’s set list. I’m not really sure about this song’s subject matter, it might be about a politician who has done something wrong but I’m not really sure. It’s still a good song and one of the more upbeat songs on “Please Remain Calm”.
Each year there is a long list of albums that I like at the time they’re released but within a few months I’ve pretty much forgotten about. This album won’t end up on that list. By blending so many musical styles and doing it so well, Hostage Calm has created a nearly timeless record and one that I can see myself listening to for many years to come.
This album is a good mixture of the stuff I listened to in my late teens, early twenties and the modern punk of today. I give this disc 4.5 out of 5 stars.