Published Jul 26, 2019Historically, the hospitality industry has inspired a curious ennui in rock musicians. Hotels are for the transient and lonely, if you ask Elvis; liminal spaces of dystopic tedium, according to the Eagles. Just last year, Arctic Monkeys offered their own rendering of the trope: the fictionalized Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino serving as an allegory for the soullessness and detachment of 21st century consumerism.
With their latest release, Hotel Last Resort, the Violent Femmes contribute to the tradition, wielding the lyrical device to (half-heartedly) explore the sentiment of defeat and disconnect inspired by today's political climate.
In anticipation of Last Resort, Violent Femmes participated in a collaboration of a non-musical nature. The Milwaukee-based punk band teamed up with pro skateboarder and long-time Femmes fan Stefan Janoski to release, inexplicably, a pair of Nike sneakers. Janoski appears on the record as well, joining the band for a rendition of their 1994 hit "I'm Nothing," an anthem of political apathy and anger. Whether or not the irony of this collaboration was intentional remains unclear.
Though the band have toed the line between boyish charm and adolescent callousness for most of their career, this ambivalence has not aged well, and often obscures the more successful moments of sincerity on the record. "I can't even remember my best past retort," sings Gordon Gano on the album's title track, "I'm in a resort town, at the Hotel Last Resort." The words would perhaps carry more weight had they not appeared on album that will likely gross less than its accompanying sneaker project. As is, they ring rather hollow, like the lazy appropriation of a time-honoured tradition. (PIAS)