I believe that for a record to be considered timeless, it must be properly timed. Two years removed from their critically acclaimed third album, Please Remain Calm, Hostage Calm returns with Die On Stage, which starts out swinging from the very beginning and weaves through the band’s trademark combination of ’60s pop sensibility, ’70s punk vigor, and ’80s new wave gusto – all while incorporating new inspirations and emotions into what is a record that is perfectly timed in my life.
“When You Know” kicks things off in uptempo fashion, and fans can recognize the developed sound that the band made popular with their previous record, while experiencing invigorated guitar work from Tom Chiari and Nick Balzano. The stunning guitar solo extends the inaugural track’s catchy melody and kicks off the album in spectacular fashion. Producer Will Yip flexes his aural muscles right off the bat and throughout the record, which proves to be a valuable asset to the continued progression of the band. His work with Balance and Composure can be heard in the standout track “Someone Else”, which wonderfully combines that Hostage Calm sound with that of ’90s alternative rock.
Tracks such as the blissful “Love Against!” and the energetic “Fallen Angel” demonstrate the full potential of a band in the middle of their comfort zone, allowing for impeccable drumming from Keith Sidorowicz to be properly showcased. However the record is far from a comfortable one, as it casts a theme of the post-millennial challenges that plague the American youth – inspired by singer Chris Martin’s recent end to a long-term relationship and venture into the unknown of the future.
Sonically the band dives into the future with a sound that expands more in the latter half of the record. Lead single “Your Head / Your Heart” draws heavily from the band’s ’60s influences, while incorporating more modern sounds such as the subtle synth in the background that crescendos as a bridge between verses. The following track “Raised” takes full advantage of Yip’s experience with hip-hop records, utilizing a drum machine and synth in the background in order to create a sound that may become a more common theme in future punk releases.
“12/31” is the emotional powerhouse of the record, as it slows things down to paint a despondent portrait of a lonely New Year’s Eve that acts as a turning point in a failing relationship. While great strength lies in the gang vocals among a calmer acoustic guitar, the strongest portion of the song comes in as the track allows you to visualize the ball drop while Martin sings – “Let all acquaintance be forget/And wander far from mine/I hope to you/I hope to God/that someday we’ll be fine” – in the tune of “Auld Lang Syne”, a truly beautiful moment that continues to leave me speechless.
Die On Stage ends with “Past Ideas of the Future”, a closer that includes the band’s attempts to pursue tomorrow while integrating as much of their varied influences to create a finale that appropriately closes the back cover on what is truly a masterpiece. From the ’60s barbershop quartet that builds up to an explosion of raw ’70s punk, to ending with a culmination of calls for peace that have been preached for decades to the tune of millennial new wave and rock, it acts as a beautiful last hurrah both musically and thematically.
At its core, Die On Stage is the frontline of personal conflict, doubts and the kind of existential crisis that can come about from a severe shift in one’s life, such as the end of something you’ve considered to be normal like a long relationship with someone. While I may not be going through the same experiences, my transition from being with someone I love every day to only being able to communicate with a phone is a mental and emotional change that finds solace in a record like this. Chris Martin’s punk versification is the purest of gems this record has to offer and the musicianship that surrounds it is top notch. Hostage Calm set out to create a timeless record, and they have achieved just that.