It's unfortunate the words "maturity" and "growth" are stigmas in the world of punk rock. They would be the perfect descriptors for Toronto, ON-based Hostage Life's tertiary release. Maintaining the adage that a band never realize their true potential until their third album, the quintet prove themselves deeply rooted in punk's essence while still branching out beyond their means, resulting in some epic tracks on this 36-minute affair. Where the band have typically veered towards a softer-hitting hardcore influence coupled with wisps of pop punk to bolster the chant-a-longs ― and do so again here ― there are far more aspects that ensure Centre Of The Universe is a deeper experience. Elements of oi, old school '77 punk and even straight-up rock unfold, making this their brashest and most diverse charge to date. Moreover, it rides the line between complex songwriting, such as on the Hives-esque "Form/Function/Execution" and the Clash-ish twang of "New Drugs," yet has uncomplicated, upbeat, expressive tracks. "Ratlines" is pure Rancid, while "Purple Hands" reeks wonderfully of Dillinger Four. Wearing its influences proudly, yet with enough unique twists and idiosyncrasies to sound like nothing other than Hostage Life, Centre Of The Universe maintains the aforementioned third album rule yet promises to break it in the future.
It's been three years since Walking Papers. The band's style has changed since then.
Drummer Paul Miller: When Walking Papers was written and recorded, we were still adjusting to line-up changes, feeling out who was going to do what, in terms of writing and arranging. It was scattered but worked. Furthermore, I hadn't owned my first drum kit yet, so the album was played on a borrowed kit that I didn't even know how to set up. Everyone is a lot more comfortable now so we're free to try new stuff. There are more ideas at play on this one, namely experimenting with different guitar tones by turning down the distortion.
Turning down the distortion? That's a very bold move.
We admire bands that are able to take janglier, less distorted guitar tones and turn them into something aggressive, like Wire, the Nerves or Regulations. That was a focus for us and had a creative impact while we were recording. Donny Cooper [engineer/producer] had a lot to do with bringing that sound together.
This explains the stronger, ballad-y and twang-y Clashy-type tunes.
We wanted to mix up the mood and style. I think Walking Papers is similar in that respect too. Hopefully a band's new record builds upon the things they did well on the previous one but adds new ideas to the fold. (Juicebox)