22 September 2010

Hurts: "Happiness"

To quote: “Some new romantic looking for the TV sound, you’ll see I’m right some other time” (Duran Duran’s “Planet Earth”). And in this moment of 80s revival, it was only a matter of time before the New Romantics had a proper new champion to prove its legacy. But Hurts, the duo of musician Adam Anderson and vocalist Theo Hutchcraft, is not a replica of Duran Duran or Spandau Ballet, but rather introduce the same visual aesthetics, the same electronic savvy, while all the time mixing up electropop oriented new wave with disco lento and contemporary catchy pop sensibility. Releasing their debut album, “Happiness” (6 September 2010 in the UK, 14 September 2010 in the USA as an import), this is a duo that obviously cares about big sounds, big arrangements, and leaving the listener with a definite impression.

The thing with most electronic 80s revival is that it is either an exact replica of its models (rehash trash) or understated and demure, a quality that much of the new synth- and electropop I like unfortunately shares. But Hurts will have none of that. You will be pressed to find proper models in old songs for this collection; instead they have learned from the veterans and the 80s and pushing forward into the future. Furthermore, the sounds are fresh, the rifts cutting edge, and the attitude very now. This is not your parent’s New Romantics.

Earlier last year, the band released the video “Wonderful Life.” A simple black and white faire, the duo performing with an interpretive dancer, as Anderson stands deadpan and Hutchcraft moves minimally – a mold employed by many, including Petshop Boys. The band would reshoot the video in recent weeks (both below). The dancer appears again (in person and a photograph), augmented by four more dancers, and the man of Susie’s dreams gracing this video version. Glossier, in understated colors of dusk, both Anderson and Hutchcraft keep the same demeanor; this is evidence of their aesthetics and their ability to use minimal sounds and visuals for maximum effects.

The album itself is full of many great tracks. From the melodic opening, “Silver Lining,” to gritty “Devotion,” the album stays within the same tempo range, but many of the songs play internally with the rhythm and tempo. There is no lull on this album. The sounds are big, and play as nicely at low volumes or blaring speakers, while the lyrics accent the sonic mood of each song: “Devotion. Devotion. I’m a slave unto the mercy of your love. For so long, I’ve been so wrong, I could never live without you” (“Devotion”). Sidenote, “Devotion” is a duet with Kylie Minogue, and she is not on their label. Not bad for a fledgling band to attract such a big name.

The magnum opus of the album is the single “Better Than Love.” The ostinato is big, the electro-bassline thriving, and the change ups in the song completely infectious. Lyrically, the song follows the urgency and relevancy of the music: “Another second in the sunshine, a decade in the dark taking part in a dream. Have you forgotten what she looks like? Or do you only see what you want to believe? Does it feel better than love?” Avoiding the cliché and doing the rare, this is a pop song that carries a harsh admonition, and yet it makes you want to dance.

There is a reason why such a young band like Hurts is making waves and getting recognition overnight. Naysayers can say it is because of the backing of a major label, but this is solid pop music that would have risen to the top, as their initial release of “Wonderful Life” proves. If the radio were airing more bands like this, hell I would listen to it more often. “Happiness” is a solid freshman album, which definitely carries the weight of placing the New Romantics back in the spotlight on its shoulders.

Track Listing:
1. Silver Lining
2. Wonderful Life
3. Blood, Tears & Gold
4. Sunday
5. Stay
6. Illuminated
7. Evelyn
8. Better Than Love
9. Devotion
10. Unspoken
11. The Water

Keep up with Hurts at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here is the original video for “Wonderful Life” and “Better Than Love” from their YouTube Channel: videohurts. The third video is the reshoot of “Wonderful Life” from their MySpace Videos page.

HURTS - Wonderful Life (Official Video)

HURTS | MySpace Music Videos

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