by mark mcconville (@Writer1990Mark)
Spoken word is raw but beautiful, so cathartic and poignant. It strikes the inner core of hope, it may smash it to pieces or it may let it rise and become accessible. Porterville band Hotel Books which is a project of poet extraordinaire Cameron Smith, shudder the spines with stark lyricism, created by minds unstable. This isn’t a negative report on psychological well-being. Smith isn’t insane; he’s truly alert and talented, breaking down his words into patterns of greatness.
Negativity shines like fresh blood on the band’s new album Equivalency. Pessimism rings true like a phone call to a lover dispirited by life but the record is a wonderful compendium of broken lust, broken youth, and tarnished energy. It delivers emotion like a smack to the cranium, a hit of adrenaline to the system. We’re only the recipients of the music, Smith and co are the creators, the kings of their own muse, a muse that seems to flow like an elegant river.
The songs all seem to bind. They’re stories of pain and misfortune. They scream like someone bellowing for closure, for solitude, but then ends up being placed inside a crowded room and Smith knows how to speak easily and softly, and he knows how to raise his voice for all to hear. He’s a master of telling us how it is, in a poetic manner. He talks about his nightmares, his love life, and his fall from grace. Not everyone will connect with the record. It isn’t for the punk purists or the rock fanatics, it is aimed at people who love words and their significance. Yes, there’s music behind the words, guitars shooting glitter and gold, drums beating like a heart on high endurance, but it’s the poetic strands that truly stand out. Smith manages to place the listener into a trance, an absorbing daze, and it’s ultimately seductive.
By chronicling a life through words, Smith has worked tirelessly on creating a beat, an honest charm. Throughout Equivalency, he breaks the banks, letting those tears flow, beautifully bellowing at times. He also gnashes his teeth, intelligently weaving and pondering over his own, bruised existence. Van Nuys starts with an acoustic melody. Smith adds his voice, contributing his lyrical prowess. He generates a sense of sadness (‘And I don’t know where I stand, So I guess I’ll just fall apart, Cause I know there’s blood on my hands, If there’s still hate in my heart’) where his emotions run high here, his mind bursting. Celebration begins beautifully, the riff is pleasing, as Smith blurts about fame and greed, chiming about how they “made some rock and gave up on art“.
Where I Am is bashful. It includes a chorus where Smith lets his voice loose like a lion ready to strike: ‘The lover in my heart says it’s okay to break, be vigilant cause vigilance is something I can take. The fight that’s in my heart says love can’t be made, you said loving me is such a pensive way to let yourself break’ are words that are pessimistic, but poetic. Smith doesn’t hold back here. He creates tension, as the story becomes bleaker. I’m Almost Happy Here is a sign of happiness creeping through the darkness, but Smith isn’t jubilant – Smith dazzles again with coherent and lively wordplay, keeping our minds alert and our emotions firing.
Hotel Books is a project laced in battle-hard poetry. Cameron Smith is such a talent, and his mind is a hotbed of negativity, but he’s being true to himself through his art.