Hot Mass Discuss Middle-Class Existential Crisis on New Album Happy, Smiling and Living the Dream


4.9 out of 5 stars

The new album Happy, Smiling and Living the Dream from the UK based alt-rock band Hot Mass is a great modern rock album full of surprises both instrumentally and lyrically (and in some cases, the absence of lyrics) as well as having some insanely good composition throughout.

Not many bands can honor the post-grunge sound without sounding like a copycat, but that’s exactly what Hot Mass does on this album.

The album pumps you up from the very first track, “Remember, the Nearest Exit May Be Behind You” which is just bombastic in both the guitar riffs and the pounding rhythms of the bass and drums.

The next song “Lung Capacity” is a punk sounding song that musically is pretty in your face.

The first single off the album comes from the 3rd song on the album, “Astroturf.” In a press release lead singer Rhys Jenkins had this to say about the song: 

“The song focuses on the subject matter of feeling like an outsider and that internal pressure of how you project yourself. I wanted to explore lyrics that conveyed those feelings and even though Hot Mass isn’t really a band of rebellion, to me, the song feels like a mini-protest in staying true and celebrating who you are.”

The song has some absolutely killer guitar on it too that has a melody reminiscent of some old Beatles or Oasis songs, but put to a much more modern sound.

Small Talk Champion” is a ripping tune right from the start. It is a semi-humorous song about, from what I can gather, trying to get away from small talkers who sap the energy from you. It’s a similar concept to an energy vampire in the TV show “What We Do In The Shadows.”

The song “A Literal Century” is more of a spoken word mashup between “Tomorrow At Dawn” by Victor Marie Hugo and the band's own lyrics, which are then smacked on top of a dragging composition that gives the concept of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire” but without all the hokey mainstream pop-culture references that mean nothing outside of the context. 

They lyrics really shed some light on the meaning by essentially explaining how all the words spoken through broadcasts of TV and radio over the past century come and go and to be reused at the leisure for present day pundits to pontificate upon.

The song reminds me of “Fitter Happier” by Radiohead in some regards without the text to speech voice.

Hell, Now” is damn near a post hardcore punk song. It is full of rage and energy, and it feels like one of those songs that would just get people moshing it up in a circle pit at a live show. Really good variation on the vocals on this one.

You will get a recurring theme on this album that suburban office life is equated to living among the dead, and that is definitely true in the next two songs, “The Dissonant Four” and “Shine On.”

“Shine On” really pours it on with lyrics like:

“I found my perfect smile, I told the perfect joke.
I work the perfect job, spun the perfect lie
To destroy myself.”

So, yeah, if you re-read the album title you will start to really make sense of what the concepts of the songs are, and either enjoy it even more for the context or be frustrated with how some of your daily routines feel the same.

And if you are thinking, “What the hell do these guys know about living a happy life?” Well, I would suggest checking out these lines from the song “Circadian Rhythms” where essentially they ask that very same question for themselves and to the listener:

“Does anybody else feel like living ain’t easy?
So call me if you’re really living the dream
Manic disorder, it’s getting louder
Dodge the bourgeois with the sleaze and the power
So tell me, are we really living the dream?”

I think this album really does open up a vast conversation on the topic of mundanality and living a life that is considered “the dream” for some, but for others it is a bird in a cage destined to never be free for the sake of convenience.

Leave it to a band from the UK (specifically Wales in this case) to bring out the plight of the middle class.

It’s been a staple in British/UK rock music for as long as I remember, and Pink Floyd even created whole albums and stellar songs around the same themes. Hell, Radiohead’s entire catalog is pretty much exactly these concepts under a magnifying glass.

The difference here is the upbeat tempos and the energy put into the music. I really like this album, and I think it will resonate with most rock fans, to be honest.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published