Hostage Life’s Walking Papers is everything you could want in a punk album. With songs like “Hostage Life’s Legally Distinct Cola Commercial” (aka. “You’re Stupid and You’re Gross but if You Drink This Someone Might Actually Love You”) and “Hell Awaits Hostage Life” (aka. “The Virgin Mary’s Immaculate DP”), this Toronto-based band makes their opinions pretty clear on everything from commercialism to unplanned pregnancy to mass religion. What’s more, they do it in a way that’s catchy, critical, and clever.
The album opens with the song “We Will Make You Crawl” (“Just Pretend That Your Lips are Stitched and Let Us Do The Thinking”), which makes one thing pretty clear: they’re making music for the sake of making music, regardless of if you like it or not. Kind of a stereotypical punk statement really, but with its balls-deep drumbeats and chorus of “I don’t give a fuck if you dance to this”, it’s the perfect opening to the album.
The band’s first radio single is entitled “This Song Was Written By A Committee” (“We Simply Feed These Figures into the Meloditron and, Voila, an Instant Hit”). I’m a huge fan of irony myself, so the fact that their first single is a song about the inanity of mainstream music, instructing people to “dance, you robots, dance”, is brilliant. And effective, apparently. I’ve yet to tune into 102.1 The Edge for more than an hour or two without hearing it. Maybe there’s another musical upheaval afoot, this time in the form of a punk wave to drown all the Theory of a Defaultbacks out there... or maybe the song’s just catchy, and nobody’s really listening to the lyrics. They’re both possibilities, but either way, Hostage Life are getting their name out there.
“Sons of Hostage Life” (“This Name Tag Reads ‘Fuck You’”) is a statement towards anyone working the 9-5 shift and scheduling their lives around rush hour, public transit, and the hell-hole that is Union Station, the only evidence for their existence at the end of the day being the greasy stains where they’ve leaned their heads against the windows on the train. “Hostage Life’s Legally Distinct Cola Commercial” is the staple punk song, sticking it to commercialism and the mass media, while “The Last Superman” (“The Fall of the Űbermensch”) and “Securing My Seat” (“’Is That Blood on Your Collar?’ ‘No, It’s Lipstick, I Swear,’”) predict the ultimate demise of the modern-day gods who rule this dog-eat-dog world from their penthouse suites.
But it’s not all politics and social statements. Oh no. The band has a sensitive side, too. This album is chock full of love songs. “How To Die With a Smile” (“i) Determine Whether or Not You Wish to Depart ii) Set Date iii) Find an Exit Buddy”) is about exactly what the title suggests: dying with a smile on your face. (... while having sex.) “The Quietest Mutiny” (“Dear Leader”) and “Carbon Heart Radio” (“80$ Haircut”) could easily be the wedding songs of 2006, with lyrics like “I will try to look you in the eyes when I talk / without grabbing your head to rip it off” and “girl, your crying has got me so inspired / but can you keep it down so I can hear the amplifier over you?”
...Hostage Life makes girls swoon.
My favourite song off the album would have to be “Hostage Life Are Fucking Alive and Well”, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it has the greatest number of subtitles (and how I do love subtitles): 1) “Paul Miller’s Armada Featuring Eric Gaudet.” 2) “Hostage Life Are Fucking (un) Dead.” 3) “Hostage Life Are Fucking (the) Dead.”
Brilliant, yes? But apparently, I can’t make a judgement entirely based on subtitles, so I have to give you a couple other reasons for choosing that song in particular, too. (It’s ridiculous what I go through for you people really.) From the top... The intro is killer. It’s upbeat, it’s fun... it’s a little poppy – but not overwhelmingly so. It just makes you want to dance. Or clap. There are some definite hand-claps on the track, along with some vocals courtesy of Protest the Hero’s Rody Walker, and a little Paul Miller on keyboards. (“Drums and keyboards, you say?” Yeah, that man’s an animal.) Don’t let that description throw you off, though; the song still rocks. Hard. Front-man Colin Lichti eliminates any possible puss-factor created by the aforementioned hand-clapping and keyboards with lyrics like “yeah, sunshine, we’re all hypocrites / you can’t fucking pick and choose who you hate for it.” Amen to that, mon frère.
All in all, Walking Papers is a great album. It’s fun, it’s catchy, it’s witty... it’s pretty offensive at times. Then again, when it comes to Hostage Life, I wouldn’t really expect anything less. [ END ]
01. We Will Make You Crawl
02. Sons of Hostage Life
03. This Song Was Written By a Committee
04. Hostage Life's Legally Distinct Cola Commercial
05. The Last Superman
06. Securing My Seat
07. How to Die With a Smile
08. The Quietest Mutiny
09. Hostage Life are Fucking Alive and Well
10. Fuck, I Hope You're Not Pregnant
11. Of Shutguns and Pleasure Wands
12. Carbon Heart Radio
13. When I Get Cancer
14. Hell Awaits Hostage Life