The debut album from Hotel Lux has been an incredibly long time coming. Planet Earth shutting down in 2020 put the brakes on the six-piece, right in the midst of their astronomical rise through the guitar underground ranks. During this period of uncertainty, line-up shuffles and a voyage from South London to the Wirral, Hotel Lux toiled with a myriad of instruments, ideas and sounds, before finally striking gold. Breaking away from their brash, pub-rock singles, the sextet formulated a new identify for Hotel Lux, this time leaning toward a jangly, keyboard heavy sound, the result being ‘Hands Across The Creek’, their long-awaited debut record.
Lead single ‘Common Sense’ is a delectable mish-mash of 80s drum machines, funk-orientated basslines and tasteful guitar work, topped off with frontman Lewis Duffin’s sardonic cadence and delivery. Instrumentally, every measure feels more calculated and refined than ever, but that doesn’t mean they’ve lost their edge. Scratchy guitar work drives ‘National Team’, the monotone gang vocals feeling a homage to their back catalogue. Cuts like ‘Strut’ lean again toward their roots, playing with noughties indie riffs but throwing in nasally, child-like keyboard moments. Every track across this record is an evolution, a leap in the right direction for Hotel Lux.
‘Easy Being Lazy’ is a pause for breath. The arrangement is almost orchestral in a sense, with swelling guitars and keys weaving in and out of the speakers, Duffin’s vocal performance smooth and mature. ‘Morning After Mourning’ is another calmer moment. With its lo-fideltiy textures and timbres and creaky, clunky piano motifs, the track is intimate, raw; it sounds like Hotel Lux could have taken the Bon Iver approach, locking themselves in a cabin with minimal instrumentation.
‘Hands Across The Creek’ is, in short, an exceptional debut record. Well-thought out and has the band breaking out of their comfort zone – exactly what a return should be. Their slightly more experimental approach to songwriting and production, compared to previous work, is refreshing, welcomed and alluring; every track here can hold its own, being an extension and development of the group while still remaining quintessentially Hotel Lux. It has taken the band a while to fully find their feet, but this project has hit the nail on the head and will for sure open a myriad of opportunity for the band in the future.
Words: James Mellen