It’s kind of remarkable that The Hope List even exists. In 2018, co-founder and frontman David Jakes left Lonely The Brave in order to focus on his mental health. A turbulent period followed, until the band eventually found his replacement in Jack Bennett of Grumblebee fame. This change is one that very few bands go through successfully, so plaudits must be given to Lonely The Brave for coming out the other side in one piece. Their third album The Hope List arrives with the band in a better place, but also in a world on fire, a world where straightforward, impassioned alternative rock might just be the tonic needed to save us from the mess we’re in right now.
It feels like Lonely The Brave have been around for a long time, which is generally a good sign for a band. In reality, it’s only been six years since the release of their debut album The Day’s War. They’re one of these British rock bands like Mallory Knox or Deaf Havana that, if they had come through in previous eras (90’s and the early 00’s) could have all become huge, ascending the charts and entering the zeitgeist. Unfortunately, the mainstream of the last decade or so hasn’t been kind to rock music, and there simply isn’t enough space for every decent guitar band to become the next Biffy Clyro. Nevertheless, Lonely The Brave have grafted on, and carved out a singular space for themselves in the scene.
Their appeal lies in the heartfelt simplicity, which works mostly to their advantage on The Hope List. The arpeggiated chords of opener ‘Bound’ ring with a liquid beauty, dragging you along with its excellent sense of movement, before then exploding into a chorus of infinite depth. It recalls a more layered, textured Fightstar track, and works as an effective showcase of how British rock has changed in the last ten to fifteen years. ‘Keeper’ is another album highlight, featuring a simple structure and guitars that possess a reflective, melancholic glint. Like ‘Bound’, ‘Keeper’ showcases Jack Bennett’s raw, impassioned vocals, which recall Lower Than Atlantis' Mike Duce at his most teeth-gritted and melodious. He’s an excellent vocalist, and fits perfectly into the Lonely The Brave fold.
There are a few tracks that take the impassioned, anthemic quality a little too far. Despite the icy, post-rock toned guitars (a frequent production choice across the album) ‘Something I Said’ doesn’t do enough structural heavy lifting to justify its intensity. It’s all pitched at the same level, which, despite its cool veneer, means it quickly loses steam. This is an issue across other parts of The Hope List, and one also prevalent in a lot of newer alternative rock/post-hardcore. The emotional intensity is cranked so high that it leaves little room for any shade other than melancholic, chest-beating devastation. There’s little to no sense of quirkiness or offbeat imagination, something that big boys Biffy Clyro have long possessed in spades.
However, consistent variety is hard to achieve across a whole album, and it seems unfair to criticise Lonely The Brave for sticking to what they do best on what is sort of their comeback album. The Hope List is filled to the brim with oceanic anthems, and if you’re willing to look past a lack of deviation from the formula, it’ll work like gangbusters. Its straightforward nature means the album takes on an extra dimension of formal poignancy, becoming a hearty remedy for the ever-shifting, unpredictable nature of the lives many of us are living right now. For most, this will be more than enough to qualify The Hope List as a success.