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Hidden Hospitals Reveal LIARS

Chicago’s Hidden Hospitals, fronted by former Damiera founding member, Dave Raymond just released the most interesting and intricate alt-rock/electronica fusion album since Kid A.

Photo by Peter Kulak

“Staying interested/ing inspires the change. The stuff I wanted to write for [2014’s Surface Tension] manifested itself then, and picking the guitar up and hearing old ideas come out is the opposite of alluring to me. That’s always been a driving factor in staying a musician for me – getting out of my own box…” explained Hidden Hospitals’ frontman Dave Raymond in response to my question on where the inspiration behind the change in sound from Hidden Hospital’s first LP (Surface Tension) and their new album LIARS. The closer fusion of electronic and traditional rock elements on LIARS can be slightly jarring at first, but ends up sounding nothing short of phenomenal upon closer listen, as all great albums do.

“Hearing my fingers make music I’ve already heard / made is actually very depressing, to the point that I’d never pick my guitar up. All the bending, manipulating, oscillating, transforming that happens on LIARS was aspirational – and I think that because we arrived at things that even I can’t replicate, I feel like they hit the mark.” LIARS does nothing if not hit the mark. There’s always been an electronica flare to HH’s music, especially as compared to Raymond’s former biggest named project, Damiera. On LIARS the electronic elements rise to a compositional level of parity with the guitar parts. While there is definitely some clearly discernible rock guitar woven throughout the album (on some tracks more prominent than others), the guitar, as a compositional instrument, is manipulated and washed through an electronic bath the likes of which we haven’t heard since the heydays of U2’s best experimentations and NIN’s masterworks like Year Zero and The Fragile. The guitar on LIARS sounds nothing like The Edge’s or Trent Reznor’s, but the level of creative manipulation and soundscape atmospherics are on solid equal footing with the creative manipulations of the aforementioned artists. Yes, LIARS is that good creatively.

Speaking of creativity, Raymond expounded upon his songwriting process and what kindles the creative spark that leads to a new HH song, subsequently giving us a look into the HH songwriting process: “There’s basically two stages for me: creating, and finishing. The former being the fun part, where all the exploration happens – finding new ideas, the newness and feeling good part of songwriting. When those ideas are in that state, they’re limitless. It’ll be a beat, or a verse, or “whatever” that you just want to keep playing on for hours. The hard part comes in then turning it into something cohesive and final – that’s the work, and it’s inherently consequential. You’re now at the point where you can very likely ruin an otherwise great idea. But.. there’s always more great ideas (to ruin).”

Raymond and HH definitely worked hard to finish strong with LIARS, although the songs, with all of their mixed live and programmed drums, layered guitar riffs, and electronic elements threaded throughout come together with a cohesion and seamless composition that Raymond and HH make sound too easily accomplished. LIARS is the kind of album that, again, like the best rock albums, gets better and better with each listen, as well as more impressive. Every time I listen to LIARS (and I’ve been listening to it for a while now), I hear something new. It could be a new meaning that I discern in a lyric, a synth wash that I thought was just a synth wash, but is really a guitar part, a guitar part that I at first thought was rather simple and extraneous is revealed to be integral to the album’s cohesion having a sibling that is hiding in another song which creates album cohesion and reinforces theme. LIARS is a rock music lover’s dream listen, and a music/album/song analyzer’s MUST listen.

There’s plenty to analyze and dissect here, but in a good way that enriches the listening experience of LIARS. A well composed poem (or song lyric) relates universally understandable and interpretable, as well as applicable, themes and ideas. All of the songs here reflect this criteria, which in turn elevates them to the level of art rather than just entertainment. When I asked Raymond what inspires his lyrics he responded with a answer that I completely expected from a lyricist of his caliber: “Folly, ego, selfishness, arrogance, foolishness. Seeing the same thing in different ways is a feat – to be able to shed your own impressions of something and actually see it differently. It often feels impossible, when depressed or defeated, or hopeless – or happy. It’s very easy to stay willfully ignorant when happy / fearful of losing something we love.

Yes, it sounds like heavy stuff, but the music provides the necessary heft to keep the thematic elements from grinding under their own weight. The album is more urgent than uplifting, but that’s what I’ve come to love, and respect, about HH. There is a level of substance here, lyrically and musically, that is dreadfully absent from all contemporary pop music, most contemporary rock, and too much contemporary hip hop/rap. It’s obvious that Raymond is the type of artist who has something to say, and the talent to not make is sound trite or obvious in the delivery. That’s a rarity these days as well.

So, how does all this come across in a live setting? Unfortunately, I have yet to experience HH live, but that might be changing. “We love playing live – it’s what we’re built for. We’re currently sorting our where to put that energy – we just had a really successful LIARS release show in Chicago, have a few awesome shows in the pipe, and will announce our plans for summer + fall soon. I hope that includes the Southeast!”

I certainly hope so too.



Carolina's based writer/journalist Andy Frisk love music, and writing, and when he gets to intermingle the two he feels most alive. Covering concerts and albums by both local and national acts, Andy strives to make the world a better place and prove Gen X really can still save the world.

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