Minimum Listening Guarantee – HOST

Life is about decisions: know the decision and you’ll know the person. Even a deferral (“none of the above” or “don’t know”) is a decision of sorts, revealing a fickle or irresolute character. In music, hundreds of individual decisions can lead to the kind of stark differences seen when Dizzee Rascal hands on a prize to Franz Ferdinand. Some, like Franz, have made self-conscious decisions (music for girls to dance to, smart shoes, post-punk). Others, like Billy Childish, affect to do whatever comes naturally (dressing up like a Bismarck-era German soldier). HOST are somewhere in the middle, exploring on their debut album, Minimum Listening Guarantee, the discrepancy between letting go (All Over Again) and retrospective reflection (Question of Balance).

One revealing decision is not to include their lyrics, which forces you to listen more closely but also leads to a sense of incoherence. Opening song, conveniently called Decisions, has the worst opening couplet I’ve ever encountered: “Personal is politics / you won’t separate the moral or the ethics.” What does that mean?! Later on in the song, chatty Britpoppy lines, like “Logic dictates, well doesn’t it always?!”, leave one groaning. Thankfully, they have some aces up their sleeves: As Requested is one of the best songs of the year, all romantic yearning and catchy harmonies.

Musically, they manage to combine stuttering guitars and smooth moogs, a clever cocktail that serves them well. The album, though short at 32 minutes, has remarkable continuity, the 11 tracks seeming to merge into one without ever being repetitive. Other highlights include the exquisite Not a Test and the Everybody Gets, which can stand proudly next to Gang of Four and early Wire.

My final decision then. When HOST are bad they’re mildly embarrassing, but when they’re good they are incredibly exciting. In the current post-punk scrum for success, HOST deserve to be amongst the frontrunners.