Singles Going Steady 34: Hope of the States

Saturday, 18 July 2009, 12:59 | Category : Singles Going Steady
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Yesterday, the Guardian announced the death of the CD. They weren’t the first to do this, and they certainly won’t be the last. But a closer look at the article, it’s really about CD singles. Of course, this isn’t surprising. The CD single has always been a crappy format, and to hear that Florence and the Machine only sold 64 physical copies of their single to get to number 16 only confirms how irrelevant they’ve become (especially since some of these 64 will have been 7 inches).

So the fact that I’ve got a long-running series devoted to CD singles, is less about nostalgia for the format and more about the great music that I’ve got locked away on discs that I never play. Ironically, this installment contains one of the very few CD singles I have that are actually worth anything. At least it was worth something, but that was in the earlier part of the decade before the band split, wiping most of the value away. They’ll have to somehow achieve cult legendary status, or maybe reform, if it’s going get me any money. But all this is a moot point - I probably wouldn’t sell it anyway.

The band in question is Hope of the States, and the single is their debut Black Dollar Bills, packaged in a hessian sleeve, lovingly assembled by the band in the days before their launch on Sony Records. It’s a good single, and a strong introduction to a band who never really seemed to reach their full potential. They were dealt a body blow before they got properly started, with the suicide of their guitarist James Lawrence during the recording of their debut album. They managed to struggle through the pain of that tragedy, and make a significant mark with that record, The Lost Riots, back on 2004. Despite the brilliant opening instrumental The Black Amnesias, and despite the high quality of their sound on the album, it was a little spoiled for me by the weakness of Sam Herilhy’s vocals. Maybe better that they had been an instrumental band, concentrating on the dark and tumultuous widescreen soundscapes, which made them one few bands that ever got me wishing I was watching them in a bigger venue. Somehow indie toilets didn’t do justice to their big dynamics.

Although their debut album was good, it’s the b-side to the single The Red, The White, The Black, The Blue which is one of my favourite HOTS song. It’s on my other CD single from the band, and one which really isn’t worth very much at all (I’ve just checked). However the lack of monetary value shouldn’t put anyone off - it’s an excellent song which is the perfect showcase for a band that perhaps peaked too soon, before their time. Simon Sweeping the Nation gets it absolutely right when he points to the video below as something that would have got HOTS dismissed as Arcade Fire copyists if they were around now.

mp3: Hope of the States - Black Dollar Bills
mp3: Hope of the States - The Last Picture Show

After Hope of the States, most of the band went on to form Troubles, which also seems to be no more (or at least dormant). These days Sam Herilhy and Simon Jones are in The Northwestern and Mike Siddell can be found playing violin for Wilkommen Collective bands The Miserable Rich and The Leisure Society.

For more HOTS stuff, check out the rich source that is The Halfway Home fansite, now occupying the band’s old official domain. There are heaps of b-sides, live sessions, demos and gig bootlegs to fill up your Hope of the States folder.

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