May 18, 2018 The Motels – The Last Few Beautiful Days (Album Review)
One of the early purveyors of American New Wave music, during its nascent period in the late ’70s, The Motels endeared themselves to enthusiasts of the genre with their now classic songs “Only the Lonely,” “Suddenly Last Summer,” and “Remember the Nights.” The band that was officially formed in 1975, in Berkeley, California, United States, went on to release five studio albums during their peak – from 1979’s self-titled debut to 1985’s Shock – before its leader, Vocalist Martha Davis, decided to dissolve the band to embark on a solo career. For much of the 1990s, Davis explored further her musical influences by dabbling on various styles and releasing a string of albums under her name.
In the mid-2000s, Davis with her backing musicians reverted to being called The Motels again, releasing an album of new materials, 2008’s This, and then following it up in 2011 with Apocalypso. Seven years after, The Motels – comprised currently by Davis (vocals, guitar), Eric Gardner (drums, percussion), Nicholas Allen Johns (bass, synthesizer, guitar, piano, percussion, backing vocals), Marty Jourard (saxophone, piano, clarinet), and Clint Walsh (guitar, synthesizer) – unleashed the band’s proper eighth album, titled The Last Few Beautiful Days.
Released on Friday, March 30, 2018, on Sunset Blvd. Records, The Last Few Beautiful Days takes on the familiarly cool and alluring, synth-drenched and often sax-adorned swagger of the band’s music. It opens with the haunting and nostalgic vibes of “Punchline,” taking the listener to the good ol’ summer days of The Motels’ heyday. This is followed by the similar, slow-motion allure of “As Long As,” whose flickering pulses float smoothly into the night. The ensuing post-midnight sonic revelry is then greeted by “Lucky Stars,” shining its sparkling melodies.
Another contemplative, soft ballad awashed with synthesizer flourishes comes next in the form of “Look at Me,” which will surely comfort the listener’s moody, bluesy wildest dreams. A change of style, the aptly titled “Machine” is what may be described as a trek into the soft terrains of Industrial Synthpop, giving way to the much slower, loungy sway of “Light Me Up.”
The rhythm builds up again with “Tipping Point,” taking the listener once again back to The Motels’ glorious ’80s days, only to surprise the same listener with the sweet syncopation and jagged angularity of “Imposters.”
The slightly orchestrated “Criminal” is another melodramatic excursion to a dim-lit, quiet corner of the lounge; after which, the mid-tempo, electric guitar-charged “Nobody” gallops ominously yet unassumingly into the countryside. Finally, Davis and the rest of the current lineup of The Motels wrap up the latest addition to the band’s discography with the album’s title track – a hauntingly beautiful, slow, piano-led ballad that exudes a theatrical, jazzy, and Classical feel, conjuring images of golden leaves falling in a breezy, misty morning. Suddenly, it was the ’80s summer all over again – when the order of the day included The Motels’ fellow American New Wave bands such as Blondie (“Call Me”), The Pretenders (“Back on the Chain Gang”), Missing Persons (“Words”), ‘Til Tuesday (“Voices Carry”), Romeo Void (“Shake the Hands of Time”), Grace Pool (“Awake with the Rain”), Fruits of Passion (“Kiss Me Now”), and The Reivers (“In Your Eyes”).
The reason many old and enduring bands find difficulty in releasing new materials is because their respective primary songwriter/s have lost touch with their songwriting muses, and the drive to express new experiences in musical terms has dwindled. Not Davis, who continues to not only perform her band’s classics but also come up with fresh and equally compelling songs that, despite their contemporary streaks, still carry The Motels’ trademark sound. The Last Few Beautiful Days is a worthy proof of that. CrypticRock gives it 4 out of 5 stars.
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