The absurdity of a band gorged in such anti-American zeal singing in such an affirmably faux American accent, is matched only by how much Chichester’s Hope Of The States seek to raise the bar. Aided by their sheer number and armed with Sigur Ros producer, Ken Thomas, the untimely death of guitarist, Jimmi Lawrence during mixing, immediately verified them, bringing The Lost Riots into the realms of Joy Division’s Closer for the pure tragic-factor. Giving credence to every lonely lyric, it’s needless to say that Lawrence’s war-torn guitar work creases dimensions with the weight of its emotion.
Tragedy aside, the record itself is no different to how it would be if Jimmi were still here. It remains a massively orchestrated kickback against self-pity. Rooted around guitars but brought to the fore with an otherworldly combination of strings and lush production, it’s a politically sensitive album that rests more alongside the studied observation of Radiohead than the reactionary impudence of Kinesis. It would perhaps like to be more of a true step forward musically - more of a Morricone-come-Godspeed evolution that truly brings post-rock to the charts than it is, however, despite countless moments where this becomes possible, they have a particular pop sensibility anchoring them down. The only spoiler is Sam Herlihy’s lack of vocal abilities.
For a band that centre so much around melody and their polemic, often quite beautiful lyricism, it’s a great shame that Herlihy’s fractured and wavering vocals often sound like a cross between Ian Brown and Embrace’s Danny McNamara. His warbling greatly detracts from the plush Mogwai style soundscapes that flirt between twinkling, bright marching beats and harrowing, forcefully decadent guitars. If you can get over this, then there’s a great album to behold around it, but those used to the pitch-perfectness of Muse or Sigur Ros may have difficulty.
The magical centrepiece is indubitably the pairing of singles ‘The Red, The White, The Black, The Blue’ and ‘Black Dollar Bills’. The former is a furious blast of classic British rock. Recalling the original gusto of ‘Design For Life’ and repainting it in combat green feedback, it’s a whirring indulgence of the mightiest proportions. ‘Black Dollar Bills’ is a burning, eternally dour epic that reveals the group’s full musical majesty. The searing contrast of bleak piano-led verses tearing into their full on; industrial funeral march chorus is magically tragic. Few bands have the power to move in such a beautiful fashion.
Although song-wise, the last quarter of the album trails off after the stonking, ‘Sadness On My Desk’, ultimately, the phantasms created even by their instrumental (opener, ‘The Black Amnesias’), put Hope of the States in a different league to most of their peers. The Lost Riots is unlikely to trouble Coldplay in the worldwide airplay stakes, but there’s no doubting that it’s a monumental effort.
What is surprising is that amid the jeers of ‘post-rock’ encircling from all breaches, The Smashing Pumpkins and their bloated poetic rock, seem to be overlooked as one of Hope of the States’ nearest contemporaries. It’s there in everything from the referencing to the dazzling density of orchestration. The Lost Riots though, is very much 'present'-rock. And with the bar now considerably raised, it's a record to look back on with more smiles than sadness. It’s a fine debut of which Jimmi would be fucking proud.
8Andrew Future's Score