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On the Casino Floor

(Hidden Shoal; US: 22 Feb 2011; UK: Import)

Gambling on a Silly Concept

With its third album, On the Casino Floor, Seattle’s Hotels have fashioned a concept album set in an outer space gambling den that relates the story of a secret agent who is trying to save the universe from an evil galactic prince.

If that sounds hokey, well, it is. However, the band’s sonic resonance is something else altogether. Imagine if the Smiths collided with OK Computer-era Radiohead on the set of a spaghetti western, and you’ll get an idea of the cinematic scope that Hotels is shooting for. On the Casino Floor is claustrophobic and spacious at the same time, and with five of the seven songs clocking in at above the five-minute mark, there is a certain grandeur to the set-up that pushes these tracks into interstellar hyper-drive. What’s more, the album captures all of the sleaziness, depravity, glitz and glitter of a night out in Sin City. There’s a definite dapper New Wave underpinning to the music, with all sorts of retro bleeps and bloops integrated into the proceedings. Vocalist Blake Madden recalls Morrissey channeled through the perpetual sneer of Adam Ant at his oiliest. There are some astounding moments on On the Casino Floor and they tend to come at the beginning and end of the outing. Opener “From the West” starts out with some computerized blips against a punchy drum roll, before settling into a thickly textured surf rock theme. “Sleep in Fame”, the album’s final track, has a guitar chime similar to Robert Smith’s work on Disintegration, backed up against a baroque harpsichord.

The best that can be said about On the Casino Floor is that it is an exactingly cohesive statement, even though the record’s James Bond in a spacesuit idea (wasn’t that already done in Moonraker?) might be a tad bit on the silly side. Enjoy it for the music, snicker at the concept behind it.


Zachary Houle is a writer living in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He has been a Pushcart Prize nominee for his short fiction, and the recipient of a writing arts grant from the City of Ottawa. He has had journalism published in SPIN magazine, The National Post (Canada), Canadian Business, and more. He also reviews books for

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