Starting university is tough. There’s no way around it and there’s no way to deny it. Regardless of how prepared you say you are or how excited you might be, there will be at least one aspect of your new life that you will likely initially struggle with. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles, I’m afraid.
There will be times when you just feel expressionless and empty at the end of the day. I know I felt this way a lot in my first few months of university in particular. But when I feel this way I often find that listening to music helps me to understand how I’m feeling and what it is that I’m feeling. During my first couple of months of university, no album helped me more than the incredible Home, Like Noplace Is There by The Hotelier.
It’s a concept album; it tells the overarching story of someone returning to their old home and rediscovering all the old memories that come with it. Mostly painful ones. I like to think of it as a modern-day version of The Downward Spiral, as it captures many of the same themes as Nine Inch Nails’ 1994 sophomore album. The emotional scope of the album is enormous. And every track resonates so very deeply.
I don’t think that an album has ever helped me to understand emotions as much as Home, Like Noplace Is There has. From the fantastic opening track, aptly titled ‘An Introduction to the Album’, to the monumental closer ‘Dendron’, the album is a masterpiece of progressive, aggressive, emotive punk rock. Whilst I may not have lived through many of the experiences featured in the lyrics (e.g, the death of a friend, domestic abuse), I have experienced tough times and depressing lows, and I think that’s where Home, Like Noplace Is There struck me the most. It’s an album that screams “I’m not OK and this is how I’m feeling”; there’s no bullshit and there’s no pretension. I just felt like I had an accomplice, something that understood me whilst also teaching me.
The lyrics are layered with meaning and I found myself associating with so many of them; “You came out. Started bruising. Find it tough to admit when you’re losing” from ‘Among the Wildflowers’, “You felt buried from the start, tearing you apart” from ‘Discomfort Revisited’, “Digging through the memories that made you feel alive when you were young” from ‘Dendron’. The emotive nature of the album is undeniable; I defy you to feel something when you listen to this album.
Home, Like Noplace Is There really helped me to understand myself and what I was going through. I was beginning a daunting time in my life and it was there to prop me up every step of the way. I’ve listened to the album countless times over, both then and more recently.
One of the big overarching struggles I faced was that whilst I wasn’t entirely homesick, I was definitely missing aspects of living at home and in a place that I knew and where I had people who I loved. I felt comfortable in the confines of my home and even if I hadn’t seen my friends in a very long time, home was there for comfort. The overall message, at least in my opinion, of Home, Like Noplace Is There is that whilst there is no place like home, it may not always be the best thing for us; we must move on and make our own paths in life.
I so hope that The Hotelier get all the credit they deserve for this truly magnificent album. In all seriousness, I truly believe that this is an album that should be looked back on as a classic and as a masterpiece. From the outstanding musicianship and song writing to the heartbreaking and cathartic lyrics, Home, Like Noplace Is There is a life changing album.