A Hostage and the Meaning of Life

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A Hostage and the Meaning of Life
Studio album by Brazil
Released September 26, 2004
Recorded Grandma's Warehouse, Los Angeles, CA
Genre Progressive, Rock, Post-punk
Label Fearless
Producer Alex Newport
Brazil chronology
A Hostage and the Meaning of Life
The Philosophy of Velocity

A Hostage and the Meaning of Life is an album by the rock band Brazil that deals with themes of technology, dehumanization, and frustration. Musically, it borrows from complex genres such as progressive rock and classical music, as well as the abrasive aesthetic of punk, and the ethereal guitar sounds of shoegazer pop. It was received warmly by many critics[citation needed] as a masterful debut album from a previously unknown band. The album's single “Escape” received a small amount of college radio play, and the video appeared in rotation in several regional and national music video programs.

The album takes its name from Asimov's Caliban trilogy, although has nothing to do with the story itself.


There has been much speculation as to whether or not Hostage was a concept album. Singer and lyricist Jonathon Newby has been very vague in determining the validity of the claim, only to say “unless a band is putting out a Greatest Hits record, then by definition, all albums are concepts” in many interviews. One theory asserts the story as a Reverse Pinocchio fable about a human boy trying to become a robot. The key characters in this scenario are Pale, the boy, and Stark, a female android Pale has fallen in love with. In this scenario, the exclusive worlds of humans and robots forbid the romantic involvements of one with the other. Only by becoming a robot himself can Pale rightfully achieve acceptance into Stark's world. Most of the songs on the record deal with themes of longing and dehumanization.


Hostage was recorded near downtown Los Angeles at Grandma's Warehouse Studio by Alex Newport, whose band discography includes Fudge Tunnel, Nailbomb, and Theory of Ruin, and whose producer discography includes The Locust, Kylesa, and The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower. The session included one day of pre-production in a rehearsal studio, nine days of tracking, and four days of mixing. Two of the tracking days were completed in Newport's Echo Park apartment.

The Single[edit]

"Escape" was chosen as the album's single and was promoted to college airplay. The album's only video was shot for Escape by Michael Grodner in Los Angeles and comprised a two-day shoot with volunteer actors and crew. The interior shots of the band playing were filmed inside the Ronald Reagan Building in downtown Los Angeles. The rooftop scene was filmed on top of an artist studio in the warehouse district outside of the downtown area of the city.


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 2.5/5 stars link
Alternative Press 5/5 stars link

Hostage was received with much praise from the underground press upon its release, including a 5-star review in Alternative Press, as well as near perfect scores in many other print and online publications. Popularly, the band have gained a relatively small but devoted fan base worldwide, but have not yet achieved a high level of mainstream acceptance.

Track listing[edit]

  1. "A Hostage" – 2:56
  2. "The Novemberist" – 4:47
  3. "Io" – 3:34
  4. "Escape" – 3:14
  5. "We" – 3:03
  6. "The Iconoclast" – 5:19
  7. "Zentropa" – 3:04
  8. "Fall Into" – 4:15
  9. "Metropol" – 6:41
  10. "Aventine" – 3:45
  11. "Form and Function" – 2:12
  12. "Fatale and Futique" – 5:14

Lyrical References and Alleged Meanings[edit]

A Hostage
The opening line of Hostage, “J’ai une ame solitaire,” is French for “I have a lonely soul.” It is taken from the David Lynch film Fire Walk With Me. Newby's pronunciation of the phrase is incorrect – this was pointed out to him by Québécois fans while the band was promoting the record in Canada.

The Novemberist
No known concrete references, but the song is reported to allude heavily to the philosophy of Taoism.

No known references. The song reportedly studies the phenomenon of doppelgangers and metaphysical doubles.

Studies extreme anxiety and withdrawal. Lorazepam is an anxiety medication. “Give me all my garmonbozia” is taken from the David Lynch film Fire Walk With Me

The title is from Russian author Yevgeny Zamyatin's dystopic novel of the same name. The lyrics are a dialogue between the main character and robotic superiors. The phrase data date was taken from the Kraftwerk song Computer Love.

The Iconoclast
The lyrics are an abstract ode to the female character Stark. “Resurrect the dead on Jupiter” is a reference to the mysterious Toynbee Tiles.

The title is from the Lars Von Trier neo-noir film Zentropa. The song is reported to be about running from the inevitability of death, and references the monolith, a device used elsewhere by Newby as a metaphor for death.

Fall Into
The only song to reference both supposed characters by name, with the line “Cold, stark, and pale – our sobriquet.”

Follows Pale's descent into the dark and mechanical world of the robots to pursue Stark. Among the album's most literal lyrics.

The song is an anthemic, though abstract, expression of triumph. Aventine is one of the seven hills of Rome.

Form and Function
Translated from Russian as “form and function.”

Fatale and Futique
The album's final track is another melancholy ode to Stark from the lovelorn Pale.


Jonathon Newby – Vocals, MOOG, vocoder
Nic Newby – keyboards
Aaron Smith – electric guitar
Eric Johnson – electric guitar
James Sefchek – drums
Benjamin Hunt – bass


Alex Newport – producer, engineer, mastering
Matt Miller and J.R. Cary– pre-production
Album Photography – Lisa K. Fett
Sleeve Art – Colin May

Tim Loo, the cellist on Iconoclast and Fatale and Futique, is a touring musician for pop artist Ben Harper.

External links[edit]

Official sites[edit]