Since the birth of musical sub-cultures in the last century, those nuances have been lumped together via independent record labels that came to define that sound. Everything from Chess and Motown to Death Row, Stiff, Epitaph and Moonshine records. For consumers, those labels served as an effective compass to discover new music.
For example, Hotel Chelsea, a Boise four-piece, are of the early Vagrant Records sound: turbo-charged straight-ahead rock with hard strummed bare chords on beefy-sounding guitars and melodic shout-along choruses. Instead of the double-time drums that came to define the Fat Wreck Chords sound, the drums pound four-on-the-floor at a furious pace. It's less punk than it is super-rock, and Hotel Chelsea does it well, effectively mimicking the sound of a group like Face to Face. Loud, fast, fun. And perhaps most importantly, pulling it off well. Hotel Chelsea sounds straight out of mid-'90s So-Cal in the best possible way.
And while they aren't breaking new ground, who cares? Seeing Hotel Chelsea's bass player bounce around the stage as vox are tag-teamed between the two guitarists and the drummer, and the guitars rage, is good, loud fun, the kind that leads to pumping fists and good-natured circle pits—which is incidentally, the kind of loud fun that's been missing from live music lately. If the sound ain't broke, then don't fix it.
But, with the imminent demise of record labels on the horizon, someone's going to have to find a new compass.
You can catch Hotel Chelsea on Monday, Feb. 14, when they open up for Guttermouth—is there a better day to see Guttermouth than Valentine's Day?—at Gusto. The show starts at 8:30 p.m. and costs $10.