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Whilst friends and contemporaries HMLTD set London ablaze with transportative, technicolour reimaginings of guitar pop, Hotel Lux paint a far bleaker picture of the capital. Through their spectral garage punk, they blend the route one aggression of Dr Feelgood pub rock and the distorted urban landscapes of The Fall. Tales of hangmen and bankers, flushes of human greed and trickles of sickening guilt populate Hotel Lux’s music, and in particular Lewis Duffin’s lyrics. With its richly drawn characters and graphic landscapes, their songs have an impact more akin to the films of Loach, Leigh, and Meadows than any musical contemporaries.
“I’ve always said that film directors like Alan Clarke and Ken Loach are more influential to my lyrics than any other lyricist as such,” Duffin explains; “The visual sense of it is more important for me.” His penchant for highly visual lyrics is apparent even from the opening line of their very first single, 'Envoi', which depicts a man that “claws at the beermat, with debt on his mind”. Whilst the band spent the bulk of 2017 gigging almost weekly, it was their sole online release, causing the band’s live reputation to grow and grow.
Originally hailing from the South Coast city of Portsmouth, Hotel Lux now reside in the East London docking district of Wapping. “The docks in Wapping are like Gunwharf, old Portsmouth,” Duffin continues, “and the buildings there are very similar to the buildings in Wapping. It feels like home.” The band’s music is often evocative of a London bygone; spidery guitar scratches summon to mind smog and billowing turrets of black smoke, whilst thick organ blasts are evocative of Gallon Drunk’s twisted distortion of pub rock.
Hotel Lux cite pub rock - in particular “70s, smoking in pubs” - as a huge influence. Guitarist and keys player Sam Coburn can be regularly seen touting a Blockheads or Dr Feelgood tee shirts, whilst the band seem eternally at their most comfortable in a traditional pub. The band, in fact, play their first headline show later on this month at The George Tavern, a vintage boozer in Shadwell.
Despite this, they’re not one dimensional enough to pigeonhole as a pub rock band, or anything similar. Their influences stretch far beyond the bar. New single 'The Last Hangman' is a five minute guitar romp, that combines a krautrock groove with gothic literary sensibilities. On it, Duffin speaks of Albert Pierrepoint, one of Britain’s most fascinating historical figures. Pierrepoint executed over 400 men and women (including over 200 Nazis post-war), before retiring to run a Southport pub. The song is about his ‘dubious morality’, but Duffin says: “the song only has a couple of the interesting things about that man… he also hanged his best mate, without knowing it was his best mate”.
A penchant for the dark and macabre haunts Hotel Lux’s music, but the band are far from gloomy characters. Despite the impending doom in their music, their need to document how the ‘poor people in this country are treated like shit’, Hotel Lux’s live performances teem with excitement and energy. While their pals in Shame and HMLTD are capturing the imaginations of increasingly large audiences, Hotel Lux are seemingly poised to become the London scene’s finest cult stars. Storming, strutting, and voicing working class alterity “without making politics a pantomime”, Hotel Lux are the articulate voice of the disaffected youth, and they’re only just getting started.
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Words: Cal Cashin
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