Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

The Hotel Chronicles' unique industrial/rock vision now includes hip-hop and electronica

March 20, 2010

One of the joys of being around for almost a full seven years (secret: keep your eyes peeled for a 7-year birthday present soon!) is that I can follow artists through their careers. We’ve covered every single Felix Culpa release except for their debut three-way-split EP. We’ve covered half a dozen Fairmont releases. We’ve covered just about as many Marc with a C albums. Green Song is the fourth release that’s associated with musician E Deubner that we’ve covered – two solo albums and an album by his band Futants preceded this latest solo effort. This is his first under moniker The Hotel Chronicles.

One of the reasons it’s so fun to cover artists over the long range is that artists grow and change. It’s neat to see where an artist was, where an artist is, and where an artist is (maybe?) going. That’s what makes Green Song especially interesting to me. When I reviewed The Wasted Creator in 2006, Deubner was cranking out heavy, industrial-influenced rock tracks that had almost zero pop influence. Over the years, Deubner’s aesthetic has refined and changed, although never losing the core of dark, distorted, truly alternative rock.

Green Song is the strongest effort that Deubner has put out yet, because like Grant Valdes, Deubner has put his focus squarely on composing and not on becoming a rock star. I’m not sure what the green song that he’s singing about is, but it’s referenced at the beginning, middle and end of the album. The decision to tie the album together thematically also causes Deubner to tie the album together musically, making one of his most ambitious but most cohesive collections of songs yet. Deubner stretches his musical boundaries by including burbling ’80s-style electronica (“Intermission”), Beck-style hip-hop (“My Baby’s Coming Home”), and modern beat-making production (“Love Me, Leave Me”) in his dark, vaguely apocalyptic rock this time around.

Green Song isn’t for the unadventurous. Deubner’s aesthetic, while honed on this album, is still not within the realms recognized as modern rock. If you approach this thinking it’s a Nine Inch Nails sound-a-like, there’s a good chance you will be disappointed. You might not; there is definitely industrial influence that an open-minded NIN fan could enjoy. Songs like “Just for Fun Fun Baby, Run Run Run” and “Green Song Part II” rock out in a way that calls to mind his work with Futants, and those are two tracks that could be enjoyed by many.

But for every accessible riff (like the great opener of “A Minute to Love”), there’s two or three things that would never see the light of radio (like the simultaneous weird falsettos, quaalude guitar tempo, and old-school hip-hop beat of “Love Me, Leave Me”). For every accessible tune like “A Minute to Love,” there’s the late-night basement experimentation of title track “Green Song” and “The Final Push.” This is the way E Deubner wants it, and while not every one of his ideas succeeds (“Reborn” has an awful vocal performance that dooms it instantaneously), he is hitting with a higher level of success than on previous releases.

E Deubner’s Green Song is a solid statement from an artistic with a unique aesthetic. The rock/industrial/other presented here is the work of an artist continually refining his sound. This is a big step forward, but not his final destination. There are a lot of new elements introduced to his sound on this album that will need to see refining in future albums, just as his guitar riffs have. I can’t wait to see where he goes next. Recommended for fans of industrial, experimental rock or experimental music in general.

Felix Culpa-Thought Control EP

January 1, 2006

felixculpaBand Name: Felix Culpa
Album Name: Thought Control EP/DVD
Best Element: Brilliant songwriting and exhaustive DVD.
Genre: Dark, emotive indie-rock.
Website: www.thefelixculpa.com
Label Name: Common Cloud Records (www.commoncloud.com)
Band E-mail: band@thefelixculpa.com

I recently heard that The Felix Culpa won the Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands. I wasn’t aware that you could actually win it- I thought it was all some sort of myth, pretty much. But no- The Felix Culpa actually won the Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands, making them one of the best bands in America. For that, they deserve immense props.

But then again, they deserve it- they blow everyone else out of the water, and this CD/EP proves it. This band is everything you would expect in one of the best indie bands in the nation- exhilaratingly complex songwriting, beauty and crushing rock intermingling, ear-snagging vocals, jaw-dropping insight in their lyrics, beautiful art, and down-to-earth personalities to boot (any band that puts a section called “home videos” on their DVD with a disclaimer saying “we’re idiots” is pretty down-to-earth).

And they get it all done with three guys. Three guys. No wonder these guys took the crown.

Did I mention the exhilaratingly complex songwriting yet? The Felix Culpa aren’t afraid to do anything- they’ll make crescendoes that lead into sections of near-silence (stand out track “Commitment”), throw down raging sections of stomping rock (“Good Business Moves”), feedback and effects (“Commitment”, again), eerie melodies (the beginning of “Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body”) and anything and everything in between. This what rock music should sound like- diverse, dark, and deep. There’s elements of emo, rock, ambient, pop, and so much more, all piled into one mixture that is The Felix Culpa.

The Felix Culpa pulls from the deepest sections of themselves for inspiration, and it shows: the dual vocals burn with passion, whether yelling or whispering or harmonizing with each other. Both vocalists have great range and tone, making their interactions all the more exciting. Their lyrics graze clichés (“I’ll follow this until my legs give and my heart explodes/a course well run, a job half done”) but they make up for the occasional shortfall with thought-provoking gems like “My dear friend, if it’s really love you’ve found then hold it high and love it more even when it lets you down” (from “Commitment”) and “It’s getting harder to discern art from good business moves/as the poets auction off their best lines” (From “Good Business Moves”).

As if a brilliant EP wasn’t enough, their DVD is simply thrilling- packed with hours of stuff, there’s anything and everything you ever wanted to know about being a band. It’s not all glamour, they want to show: there’s a 3-minute music video that took them six hours to record, there’s footage of being bored on the road, weird places they’ve played, odd situations they got stuck in (Freddy’s Music Lounge is hilarious), and all sorts of stuff you really wanted to know about a band but never really got to know. They go through and do interviews with themselves, further giving insight. They joke around, they make faces at the camera, they play around in hotel rooms, they rock, they show pictures of their families. The Felix Culpa is a rock band that loves life, and they show almost all aspects of their life as a band and as people in their DVD. There’s tons of live footage, too- I’m not a big fan of live footage though. Maybe you are.

If you like rock today at all, you will fall in love with the Felix Culpa. I don’t care if you’re listening to Shinedown, Radiohead, Taking Back Sunday, Bear Vs. Shark, hardcore, acoustic-rock- you will find yourself loving the Felix Culpa. They are the epitome of good rock- the epitome of what IndependentClauses is trying to promote. They simply get it. May everyone else soon ‘get’ The Felix Culpa.

-Stephen Carradini

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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