Don't Go To Pieces: Reflections On Hope Of The States' 'The Lost Riots'

Marking its 10th anniversary…

‘The Lost Riots’ isn't an easy album to write about. Numerous frameworks for context, descriptives and comparatives gush out, sure, but for anyone who had more than a surface-level relationship with Chichester’s Hope Of The States’ debut full-length, it is difficult not to awaken some demons when revisiting it.

After reading it was the 10-year anniversary of its release – Has it really been a decade since its release? Yes, of course, or I wouldn't be writing this – I decided to give it a spin for the first time in a long while.

Personal relationships aside, it is difficult to deny that ‘The Lost Riots’ is a special album. It remains a breath-taking achievement, an effortless transplant of the essence of post-rock into the structure of stadium-sized, wide-eyed indie-rock. For all the accusations of pretension thrown its way – references to Sylvia Plath and Mark Z Danielewski, duly acknowledged – it’s a remarkably humble and rooted-in-earth work.

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‘The Red The White The Black The Blue’

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It owes as much to the cinematic crescendos of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and their sister band Thee Silver Mt Zion, the band Hope Of The States found themselves compared to most, as it does the more accessible, though no less ambitious, space-rock soundscapes of mid-period Spiritualized and Mercury Rev. Yet ‘The Lost Riots’ is delivered with a communal spirit at odds with the typical eyes-down, insular nature of such bands.

Which is something that hooked a lot of people in, myself included. Though the eventual rewards are plentiful, the jump from Q-friendly radio indie to 20-minute ‘suites’ composed of strings, horns and spoken-word passages is a daunting one without a hand to hold onto. And although it is unfair and inaccurate to sum up Hope Of The States as merely a gateway band, they were one that bridged both sides of the ravine with ease.

An irresistible proposition, then, for a small-town boy wrestling his way out of a slumbering town where escapism was in short supply. ‘The Lost Riots’ was one of the first albums I purchased with my own hard-earned money, just after turning 16, when working my first real job in a discount store in Mansfield. Earning £3 an hour, the special edition was a significant investment when also trying to woo my first proper girlfriend with weekly trips to Odeon and Subway.

The album became invaluable though, as the one real perk of my job was that I was given permission to shuffle about with a personal CD player tucked into a jacket pocket, as long as the music was turned down low enough to hear customers ask if a product really was that price – it was – and whether they could have a discount if the stock was damaged – they couldn’t.

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And so with this record, I was transported to a foreign, not-quite-post-apocalyptic world of mythology, American history and hope. Lots of hope. An addictive emotion for someone battling with suicidal thoughts after a secondary school term of wall-to-wall bullying, but too ponderous to actually go through with it.

The aforementioned sense of community around the band was also irresistible to someone yet to really make more than one real friend, from off-kilter commands like “People come on make a stand” and “No self pity we sing yeah yeah yeah yeah” that are peppered throughout the album, to the band’s use of their message board to talk to fans (shout-outs to Flowerpot, Arfie, Hibster etc) and distribute collections of demos and offcuts.

The latter wasn’t something unique to Hope Of The States at the time, with bands like The Others also tearing down the band/audience divide. But HOTS were the only ones whose music you could truly get lost in.

The opening assault of ‘The Black Amnesias’ delivers its blistering instrumental salvos like Mogwai commissioned to score the soundtrack to the American Civil War, or Ennio Morricone deciding to throw everything he has left in him into four and a half minutes.

Then there’s the drawn-out piano-led soliloquies of ‘Black Dollar Bills’ and ‘Me Ves y Sufres’ and to the rousing, anthemic ‘The Red The White The Black The Blue’, where vocalist Sam Herlihy’s constantly strained voice is pushed to the point of breaking.

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‘Black Dollar Bills’

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Consistently, Hope Of The States paint from a luxuriously rich palette of colour, creating a unique, vivid landscape with a sense of self-assurance that only Lift To Experience have matched over the past 20 years while working in similar circles.

‘The Lost Riots’ has a similar weight to it as LTE’s ‘The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads’ LP of 2001, but while Josh T Pearson and company fragmented shortly after the release of their only full-length (to date), Hope Of The States trudged on further.

This album’s follow-up set, 2006’s ‘Left’, is by no means a bad collection in its own right, but it falls short of the epic scale of its predecessor – and pre-album tracks like ‘Static In The Cities’. It feels like the work of a band with nothing left to say, which is understandable considering the effect that the suicide of founding member Jimmi Lawrence as the recording of ‘The Lost Riots’ drew to a close must have had on the band, and how much the they’d put into the making of this, what surely ranks as their own magnum opus.

There are no signs of Hope Of The States reforming to celebrate this album’s 10th year of existence, and the only post regarding this anniversary on their message board is without reply. The hope they promised has died out – perhaps it was always doomed to be an empty promise. But that doesn't mean that ‘The Lost Riots’ isn’t worth remembering. Remembering, and celebrating.

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Words: Jordan Dowling

Related: more Spotlight features on Clash, getting in depth on just a single album

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Listen to ‘The Lost Riots’ in full via Deezer, below…

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