I’d been meaning to write this post for a while, ever since seeing a recent news story about the amount of doctor-assisted suicides provided in Canada since they became legal (More than 1300, with cancer being the main cause). It may seem like a weird transition into talking about a band I grew up listening to but it should mostly make sense.
Hostage Life were a Toronto punk band active from 2002 to 2009. They released 3 albums, “Sing for the Enemy”, “Walking Papers” and “Centre of the Universe”. I started listening to them when they were getting radio play for their newest single at the time, “This Song Was Written By A Committee” on what was then Toronto’s new rock station, 102.1 The Edge.
As a kid halfway through high school, my reasons for digging this band were pretty straightforward; they were loud and they sounded cool. I was quick to purchase “Walking Papers” soon after hearing their single and the album has stuck with me until today.
What I didn’t realise at the time was how brutally human “Walking Papers” was and how they were singing songs about dirt-floor, physical issues that tend to be neglected by most punk bands. Such as the song that spawned the opening ramble about assisted suicide, “How to Die With a Smile”.
When I first heard this song at 16 or so, it flew far over my head. Death was barely a concept to me, yet alone the thought of choosing to end your own life due an incurable illness but as I grew older and kept hearing these songs, they all started to make more sense.
Songs like “The Quietest Mutiny” or “Sons of Hostage Life”, about working for people you hate to pay your bills and keep yourself fed. “Inside this shirt and tie, my pride and debt collide” is not something I was hearing from other punk bands at the time. Sure, striving to overthrow capitalist western society may be a noble goal but I still gotta go to work in the morning.
Even a song I have had the good fortune not to experience, “Fuck, I Hope You’re Not Pregnant”, is the kind of scathingly honest music that kept me listening to these guys year after year. It’s an album I never grew out of but only keep growing in to.
You can find the whole album on Youtube, provided by their old label, Underground Operations.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading.