Album Review: Broken Bottles, Hospital

Hospital[From Room Thirteen, January 21, 2008]

If it’s true there’s a time and place for everything, then if all of space and time were suddenly reduced to Southern California April 1981, Broken Bottles could surely lay claim to being at the forefront of something brave and exciting.

That entire scene has been effectively killed and resurrected more than once in the decades that have passed, but Broken Bottles don’t seem to mind. In fact, if you didn’t look at the copyright date you’d never think this album was released later than 1996, or that this band didn’t actually form until 2000.

Hospital is the group’s second proper, full-length release, mostly compiling remastered or, in a handful of cases, entirely re-cut versions of tracks previously released on EP’s and 7-inch singles. The strange part of the album is not that the songs are all old, but that every song sounds like it came from exactly the same session. No changes in the Mike Ness-Johnny Rotten cross-breed vocal delivery, no touching the knobs on the amplifiers, no straying from the tenets of punk lyric writing which specifically mandate that thou shalt sing only of stupid drunks, stupid girls, the stupid places stupid people hang out, and the stupid suburbs. And skateboarding. And maybe make an excellently belligerent threat if the opportunity gets a chance (“Your face is my ashtray,” for example).

In some ways, it’s almost refreshing to know that bands like Broken Bottles still exist. Their sound may be a bit dated and their methods may be more than a little bit borrowed, but as long as they’re holding down the fort it’s not impossible that someone else could come along and breathe life back into the genre. Punk isn’t dead, but if the Bottles are any indication it’s not very much alive anymore, either. Consider them not so much the life support but instead the protein and nutrient mush in the feeding tube of punk rock. It’s not getting up out of bed any time soon, but at least it hasn’t flatlined. Yet. Until then, the snares will keep firing on the twos and fours, the bass will keep popping and the chords smack of power – even if only in name.

To their credit, Broken Bottles never claim to be any kind of latter-day pioneers, nor do they pretend to be any kind of progressive revivalists, either. Which is good since taken as a whole, Hospital stands as nothing more than a remarkably average reminder of another place and another time.