Review: Bad Hotel by Ex’s With Benefits Might be the Seattle Album of the Year

Bad HotelIt’s pretty early in the year to be calling an album the Seattle release of the year, I mean we still have ten and a half months left but I was blown away by this one from the first few seconds of the first song. Frankly, I was expecting some kind of letdown because I liked the first track so much. But that letdown never came as the album just got better and better. In fact it is so good it made me want to find an old cassette, put tape over the anti-recording slots, record it and go give it to a friend at 12:30 in the morning because they just have to hear it right fucking now!

With a sound that is part rock, part grunge, part power pop and a whole lotta punk, this much anticipated album, Bad Hotel, from Ex’s With Benefits, a band that calls both Seattle and San Francisco home, delivers fast moving catchy song after song that will undoubtedly get the listener moving.

The first song starts out with vocalist Dmitra Smith belting out the anthemic line “Hey You” and that instantly took me back to the late 70’s and early 80’s. Think The Bangles, The Go-Go’s or bands like that but the song isn’t some type of novelty just paying respect to some fun power pop, it has a great hard driving guitar beat and the piano work in the chorus sells the idea. Dmitra doesn’t just sing but she uses her voice as an instrument that at times blends in perfect with the rest of the ensemble and at other times leads the way.

Smith began singing in Seattle when she was 8 and according to the band’s bio endured torture “from a closeted and bitchy girl’s choir director who punched his stomach while screaming the word “SUPPORT” at small children”. She credits him for her 3 octave range and that range is well put to use on the album.

Let’s talk about the drummer for a second shall we? Alex Vincent’s relentless torturing of the skins throughout the album, flawlessly sets the pace and challenges everyone one to try and keep up. That makes for some kick ass rock & roll in my book. Bassist Dave Place proves to be a match for Vincent though as he was up the the task and indeed does keep up and helps give the songs on this album a killer lower end. Guitarist Pascal Faivre, who, at the age of 10 in France, started playing punk rock on the guitar, also plays brilliantly on the album.

I haven’t mentioned it yet but it’s quite possible that I like this album so much in part because the drummer was in Green River, a highly influential 80’s band around these parts. Ex’s With Benefits formed in 2012 when Vincent had written some music for possible future recordings by Green River that never materialized. Not wanting the music to go to waste, he held on to them hoping at the very least, to hear what they sound like with vocals put to them. He reconnected with a high school friend, Dmitra Smith, who was probably the best person on this planet to be singing this material. She really makes them her own.

The second tune on Bad Hotel “Puritan Party”,  clocks in at a mere 1:34 and is driven by Vincent’s blistering punk rock drum beat and grungy, filthy guitar riffage. “Make It today” is song number 4 and it’ll make you want to go out to the garage and get out your skateboard. It’s a perfect marriage of garage rock and punk.

Song number 6 Indefinite Detention is a complete throwback to sound that made Seattle famous and made everyone in Seattle hate all the people that made Seattle famous. The song sounds like a mixture of Gruntruck( a band that should have been way fucking bigger) and also a certain song by Corrosion Of Conformity called Clean My Wounds. Of course COC isn’t from Seattle but they sure sounded like it for a second. “Indefinite Detention”  is certainly not a knock-off or imitation in any way but it’s more the flavor and the tone. I suppose the best way to describe it would be if you combined those bands and put a kick-ass female singer out in front that is what it might sound like. I think they killed it. Guitarist Pascal Faivre shreds the hell out of the guitar during the 2:22 second thrill ride and Smith’s howling vocal’s along with Vincent’s frenetic beat make this one hell of a killer song.

It would be hard to pick a favorite on this album although song number 9 displays some ferocious guitar work by Pascal and bassist Dave Place is hammering out some tasty, violent bass lines.  The album ends with a blazing punk influenced number called “Wall Street”  that just smacks you up side the head repeatedly for one and half minutes and then stops abruptly. Brilliant.

12 songs in 31 minutes with nothing over-produced. The songs are gritty and raw and had this album came out in 1979 this band would be huge. Although some people will say they haven’t invented a new genre with this album, that this stuff has all been done before, but I’d point out that by blending the styles they are blending and playing it on the level they are playing it on hasn’t been accomplished many times. What they have done is taken some already established forms of music, tossed them in a blender and played them the best that they can be played. Like I said in the beginning, it’s a little to early to call but they’ve set the bar very high for Seattle album of the year.

We strongly recommend grabbing this album as soon as you can. Buy it HERE

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