Hostage Life - Walking Papers (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Hostage Life

Walking Papers (2006)

Underground Operations

"Don't judge an album by its label" is the type of saying that seems to get thrown around a lot in the world of punk. I'd say I had to agree when listening to the debut full-length by Hostage Life. Their label, Underground Operations holds amongst their lackluster releases albums by Bombs Over Providence and Dead Letter Debt., which have been mediocre to downright bad. Like those bands, Hostage Life contains alumni from Toronto's mid-to-late `90s melodic punk stalwarts, Marilyn's Vitamins. Luckily for the listener, Hostage Life puts a reasonably refreshing spin to their collection of Clash inspired punk ditties.

While a Clash influenced street punk vibe that Rancid seems to love can be readily found in the guitar progressions and socio-political lyrics, there are a few different tricks the band comes up with throughout that keep things fresh. Some really solid guitar work is displayed throughout the album, such as the solo on the single "This Song Was Written by a Committee." The band really works best when they try a more straight-up mid-paced old-school rock‘n'roll sound, such as on "How to Die with a Smile" or "The Quietest Mutiny." Those two songs cover a similar territory to what One Man Army and the Ducky Boys have done in the past. While a lot of the songs have a throwback flavour the band plays slivers of a more modern melodic punk flair at times during songs like "Carbon Heart Radio" and "Hell Awaits Hostage Life."

All in all, vocalist Colin still has a great sneering voice to lead the band and the guitar playing is effective throughout the release. However one of the real strengths of the band for me was the drumming; there is some rhythms on this that will undoubtedly shake the body politic. The record does fail to deliver in some respects such as the lyrics, where Colin's heart is in the right place talking about a range of topics from the working stiff, greed and an unwanted pregnancy but sometimes the actual words themselves fall flat. Due to this and a few non-distinct guitar melodies there are a number of songs that just don't stick. You get the feeling the band won't really care what some review says though from the line "I ain't looking for respect or rewards / please talk shit on your message boards," which is fantastic and about as punk as oh I don't know, yelling "fuckyouoioioi."

This is a very promising debut record that is down to earth, humour injected and will get you moving too.