Bon Jovi have been a lot of things in their time. Spiritual follicle godfathers to the Towers Of London, sex symbols for menopausal women, serial daters of those far more attractive than themselves, but one thing has always been constant. Musically, they’ve always been complete bobbins. But maybe that was never their purpose on this earth. Maybe their place is somewhere else. Maybe their raison d’etre is as soft rock’s very own Nostradamus. Because fourscore and 10 (ok, three) years after they first suggested it, finally it has come to pass. This Left feels right.
Very, very right. Hope Of The States have waded into battle once more, two years after The Lost Riots, cutting away the chaff and leaving only wheat, standing up, sticking a chin out, and taking the world on.
Taking on, and winning; Left is a monumental, spectacular achievement. Where the debut occasionally bogged down in wide-eyed over indulgence, Left pulsates with intent and purpose, marching its songs in double time to glorious effect.
Industry and Four both seethe in the same restless fashion, spitting vitriol and lobbing three minute hand grenades of razor-edged riffs squarely at the people to blame. The later particular demonstrates the, rather marvellous, new found ability to make twice the point in half the time, as the whole thing cascades down like Bloc Party, Radiohead and Muse being simultaneously thrown down a lift shaft, and Sam Herlihy’s defiant vocals (“You didn’t think we could / “You didn’t think we would” / “But we did!”) grab centre stage, look it in the eye, and knee it squarely in the bollocks.
But the experimentation and the huge orchestral swirls do remain. They haven’t lost the nerve, or the ability, to stretch songs out into the widescreen. But by tempering the occasions when they get all Ennio Morricone on us with the more concise panzer-attack moments, the effect is so much grander: Little Silver Birds flutters along on delicate plucked wings before unleashing hell with an orchestra the size of the chip on Johnny Borrell‘s shoulder and FORWARDIREKTION:’s epic good vibes couldn’t be more uplifting if they came with underwiring.
But it’s probably the album closing The Church Choir which best illustrates what has become of HotS; like Nick Cave ringing the Division Bell in the last remaining cathedral of sound as the ghost of Godspeed You! Black Emperor is laid to rest.
And if that track sees them bury the over-earnestness, then the opening salvo of Blood Meridian and Sing It Out is the band strafing the road that led them there, the one marked ‘possible post rockers’ (twinned with being the new Mogwai), with rampant abandon and dead-eyed accuracy.
A truly great record, and also a tremendously hopeful one. HotS have proven they can do big, they’ve proven they can do clever, and they’ve proven they can do digestible, but what Left manages is to show the ability to do all of these things at once. Which, at the moment, makes Hope Of The States totally untouchable.