Hope Of The States - Left

Alex Worsnip 19/06/2006

Rating: 3/5

Hope of the States' debut, The Lost Riots, showed immense promise but suffered from several problems, notably Sam Herlihy's sub-par voice and occasional inconsistency. Nevertheless, it established Hope of the States as real contenders, capturing their knack to boil apocalyptic post-rock into four-minute indie rock segments. 'Left' consolidates their sound, but does not move it on immensely. Gone is any real pretension to actually make post-rock music, with the same immense designs channelled instead into conventional but epic indie-rock, adorned with huge guitars and strings. The sound is bigger, clearer, more direct and louder. However, everything seems to follow a rather similar formula. In the verses, vocals wind around noodling, chiming guitars, before everything explodes into a big chorus, usually with lyrics about hope, or sadness, or sadness tinged with hope, or perhaps hope tinged with sadness. Worse, the tunes aren't always in great evidence, with the vocal lines sometimes seeming to follow the chords predictably, leading to a kind of aimless feel. Where the debut took in rustic folk ('66 Sleepers To Summer'), stripped down piano balladeering ('Mes Ves Y Sufres'), and even pomp-pop ('Sadness On My Back'), 'Left' feels far narrower.

This said, it isn't a bad album by any means. When it's successful, it still hits all the right spots. Single 'Sing It Out' is the clearest and more accessible distillation of their sound yet, driven by an urgent, insistent beat and an encouragingly controlled vocal performance by Herlihy. The slower 'January' is an utterly gorgeous, sweeping ballad, wrapping itself around heartbreaking piano and a genuinely classic-sounding chorus. In general, Herlihy's vocals are of better quality, but the timbre of his voice is still a little galling at times. As with the first album, several tracks feel like they might have been better as instrumentals. Lyrically, Herlihy occasionally goes for a rather predictable political slant, and on 'Fowardirektion' and particularly 'Industry' this is paired with slightly more aggressive music to create a somewhat one-dimensional feel that doesn't play to their strengths. It's strange that, so early in their career, they feel somewhat predictable. But the majority of the time on 'Left' they do what they do well, and make beautiful and heart-stirring music, albeit music that stirs the heart in a way that feels increasingly familiar.