Hope of the States / Raising the Fawn Lee's Palace, Toronto ON - July 26, 2004

Being the latest British "buzz band" to grace our shores on a quick tour to play for the usual mix of industry types, ex-pats and hipsters, Hope of the States brought a peculiar synthesis of styles and influences together in a very large sound. When it works, it approaches something original and powerful, while the weaker moments bring up memories of better bands. Openers Raising the Fawn effortlessly proved why they are one of the most exciting bands out there, as their soaring, haunting choruses, juxtaposed with their crashing, thunderous guitar sturm und drang, easily quickened the pace of even the hardest heart. As for Hope of the States, their opening instrumental, with its high-pitched violin and cacophonic guitars, emulated GY!BE, but the band's Strokes-esque looks somehow betrayed both the heaviness of sound and intent that the music should be conveying. Most of their songs dealt not in such heavily instrumental territory but instead made use of keyboards and singer Sam Herlihy's somewhat thin voice, somehow throwing Coldplay/Keane-esque balladry into the mix. When the amalgamation works, it revels in slow, measured moods and reverberations, as in "Black Dollar Bills" and B-side "Static in the City," with the flipside being the uninspiring British rock of "The Red, The White, The Black, The Blue." Being more affable than any other band dealing with heavy themes, both in song and in gorgeous accompanying visuals, needs to be, they ended up easily charming the audience. Although Hope of the States are an odd duck with their music, they make up for it with an energy and hunger that will no doubt pull in those mope-y teens with a love for shaggy hair, tight rock shirts and whiny lyrics. And when that audience does appear, it will be interesting to see if they can keep their already shaky balance between art and radio-ready songwriting alive.