Hurts. Happiness. Love.

 

 

Silver Lining

The opening song of the album starts emphatically, with a heavy synth loop, but it swiftly changes into a uniquely-flavored pop ballad.

The Voice addresses the Other, who is somebody in trouble. The metaphors illustrating the issues abound: “storm on the streets”, “rain to come”, “tears”, “setting sun”, “shadows”, “distant light”, “walls tumbling in”, “clouds”, “thunder”, “lightning”. However, the Voice is there to save the day, or at least to offer essential comfort in times of need: “And I won’t let you drown, when the water’s pulling you in / I’ll keep fighting, I’ll keep fighting”.

The Voice acknowledges that “there’s no way back from the things […] done”, but disrupts a potentially defeatist attitude of the Other, stating his unconditional support until the very end, in what is possibly one of the most impressionist images in pop music altogether: “When the World surrounds you, I’ll make it go away / Paint the sky with silver lining. / I will try to save you, cover up the grey / With silver lining.
It’s truly a Mellow Messiah song.

To support that, there is even a Russian baritone choir which gives depth to the refrain (“sil-ver, sil-ver”), and plays the part – at least in my easily impressionable mind – of an immaculate chorus of archangels marching to support the Mellow Messiah.

Amen.

 

Wonderful Life

In the second song (and first single) of the album, the Voice becomes the Eye, telling a very tangible story of love, hope and second chances.

Susie is the main character of our story, and the earthbound angel in charge. So it goes:

“On a bridge across the Severn on a Saturday night,
Susie meets the man of her dreams.
He says that he got in trouble and if she doesn’t mind
He doesn’t want the company
But there’s something in the air
They share a look in silence and everything is understood
Susie grabs her man and puts a grip on his hand as the rain puts a tear in his eye.”

As we all learned in school, one of (if not the) most important parts of a story is the inception. Or, here we have a powerful, thick, and illustrative introduction that would keep good company to certain literary counterparts coined by fine British writers like Auster, Barnes, McEwan or Amis. Sorry, guys. I still love you.

Also, Severn is a river in Wales; runs 354 km; longest in Great Britain.

I’m not sure about Susie’s whereabouts.

She’s admirable though. Not only because she takes the guy off that bloody bridge (we all know by now what he was trying to accomplish there), but mainly because she instills a new life into him. And that’s not a small feat. Especially since she knows that “the baby was a family man / But the world has got him down on his knees”. Ouch.

“So she throws him at the wall and kisses burn like fire,
And suddenly he starts to believe
He takes her in his arms and he doesn’t know why,
But he thinks that he begins to see”.

Don’t you want to meet Susie? I surely do.

 

Blood, Tears and Gold

Now, I’m not sure if this is a reference to the American band Blood, Sweat and Tears. Still, the latter have an oldie-but-goldie song entitled “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy”, which rhymes as follows: “You made me so very happy / I’m so glad you came into my life / […] I want to thank you girl / Every day of my life / I want to thank you / You made me so very happy / That I wanna spend my life thanking you / Thank you baby, thank you baby”.

Well, real life actually sucks (even more that the aforementioned lyrics). And Hurts sings about real life, with unreal poetry. Here, they do not thank baby, since baby is a bitch and went away, even if she never had any valid reason to do so.

What starts as a lullaby develops into a suffering man’s lament, a man who is trying to live on and forget she-who-made-him-suffer. The man is in denial, he refuses to believe in a disappointing love story that grew cold, a love that even blood, tears and gold wouldn’t eventually mend.

We will never know what happened between the two, all we get is a hint: “I got no reason to forgive you / I see it in your eyes / The suffering it hides the blue / But I know that it’s never gonna hide the truth”.

The outcome is utterly bitter. “I found another girl to mess me around / So you don’t get to make me suffer”.

Sigh.

 

Sunday

Woo! Sunday is another song about love, and the loss of it. Same scenario applies. Girl leaves boy, boy suffers, wants girl back home, to cuddle and share stories and a life.

This is the simplistic read. What Hurts actually do is more complicated. They cover an existential issue affecting couples since the birth of private life, more precisely the breaking-up. Seriously, name another song that starts like this:

“There are times when we question the things we know

Never thought that the cracks will begin to show

We both know love is not that easy

I wish I’d known that it would be this hard to be alone.”

…“Please come home!”…

‘Cause till she comes back where she belongs, he will live just another lonely Sunday. All he can do is to remain optimistic and drown his nostalgia in… hope. Because, as a more sympathetic lady put it once, “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come” (Anne Lamott).

To dawn!

 

Stay

There he is again – without her. It must be the next Sunday. With the exception that he’s now certain about her, the perfect woman, but confused about himself:

“My whole life waiting for the right time

To tell you how I feel.

Know I try to tell you that I need you.

Here I am without you.

I feel so lost but what can I do?

‘Cause I know this love seems real

But I don’t know how to feel.”

It’s strange but… we feel for him. Because there is no single human being that managed to always behave ideally, opportunistically in life. Because, at one point or another, we all missed a perfect moment, maybe blinded by reality, choked by emotion or simply incapable of expressing the ultimate feeling in a timely, soulfully fashion. Because the majority of us would probably like (if not yearn) to be able to retrospectively change things, either to chase away a recurrent, haunting image (“Say goodbye in the pouring rain / And I break down as you walk away / Stay, stay”) or to finally come to terms with ourselves (“Cause all my life I felt this way / But I could never find the words to say / Stay, stay”).

C’mon, stay.

PS. Here, Theo Hutchcraft sounds a lot like Morten Harket of A-ha fame (e.g. one may compare “Stay” with A-ha’s rendition of “Velvet”, one of their smoothest tunes ever).

 

Illuminated

Oh, my. They really have a way to move things. And people.

I’ll go as far as saying that if you don’t like this matchless electro-pop Carpe Diem, then you are dead and buried. It’s not all about tastes and colours: actually this IS a symphony of colours put into music, a true synesthetic feast. If this was a fabric, I’d wrap myself blind into it and meditate indefinitely about spheres, time and life. As the rugged guru says:

“Swim with your sorrows.
I tried delusion for a while,
It’s such a beautiful lie.
You gotta lose inhibition.
Romance your ego for a while,
Come on give it a try”.

And then the (unexpected) chorus sublimely kicks in: “Suddenly my eyes are open / Everything comes into focus / We are all illuminated / Lights are shining on our faces, blinding”. It’s undoubtably one of the most memorable refrains. It is a reveling revelator, it is a fast paced pop mantra, it is a vivid deconstruction of awareness. It is a nuclear awareness that blinds one, but leaves one longing for more.

PS. My only major regret was the reduced duration of the track (3’18). I wished they made a symphony out of it. But strong scents come in small bottles.

 

Evelyn

Drum trigger.

1. A drum trigger is a piece of musical paraphernalia that roughly simulates a bass drum beat during concerts or recordings. “Much like synthesizers use the keyboard format to produce different sounds, drum triggers use the drum-kit format to initiate a single sound or sequence of sounds. Their presence in music is ubiquitous, their uses nearly limitless”.

2. For me, a drum trigger is a different thing. I perceive drums as mechanisms triggering an inner, innate, intangible chord that resides in us, often unperceived. Drums occasionally vibrate in strange ways, triggering feelings. Here, they even have a name: Evelyn.

Yeah, it rhymes with Morphine.

Evelyn is the prodigal night nurse that keeps the Voice sane and alive; Evelyn is the last recourse and the ultimate salvation. As we find out from the start, Evelyn has cold hands, but that doesn’t trouble the Voice, since it’s the touch that makes one feel alive, especially a disabled soul that has nowhere to go.

Anyone who’s ever been in a hospital, anyone who’s ever been sick, anyone who has ever felt alone at night, left to battle invisible demons and fight excruciating pains, be it mental or physical, met Evelyn. Everyone uttered at one point or another, like the Voice, the words: “So stay with me Evelyn / Don’t leave me with a medicine”.

“I see the lights

Casting shadows on my screen.

And I don’t mind

The lullabies from the machines.

But if you go

I don’t know what I’ll do.

So don’t you go

Cause I’ve got no one but you”.

A perfect world would not be short of Susies and Evelyns.

Unluckily, this world is not perfect.

Music heals, though.

 

Better Than Love

“Every second is a lifetime
And every minute more brings you closer to God
And you see nothing but the red lights
You let your body burn like never before”.

And guess what:

“And it feels better than love.
Yeah it feels better than love”.

This was issued as the second single of the album, and is the most disco-sounding track on the latter. It’s not about boogie-woogie, but rather about actively contemplating life, and putting everything into perspective. “Or do you only see what you want to believe?”. It also serves as a warning.

You can turn away. Run away. Close your eyes. It’s not enough.

 

Devotion

Did I hear harmonicas? Is that Kylie Minogue? Who’s the sinner and who’s the saint?

All these questions are answered in time.

It starts with harmonicas, indeed, like an Ennio Morricone anthem, and quickly reverts to synth and Hugh’s voice, introducing the matter:

“Inside the heart of every man
There is a lust you understand
And I’m just the same.
When all the love has gone away
And passion stares me in the face.
Could I walk away?”

Mmm-hmm. Passion or devotion: that is the question. Devotion is, according to the dictionary, “an often selfless affection and dedication, as to a person or principle”. Well, the dilemma, which has a universal scope (“inside the heart of every man”), is actually about being an egoist or an altruist. It can be covered in noble lyrical contraptions and epithets, but this is as far as human nature gets.

The Voice makes a desperate appeal for help: “Devotion save me now / I don’t want to stray from the hallowed ground / I’ll turn temptation down. / I’m asking you to take me
to safety this time.”

At this point, a Second Voice, nasal and voluptuous, makes her appearance. She confesses with an open heart:

“Forgive my thoughts when I’m asleep
Forgive these words I’m yet to speak

I fell so ashamed.”

“Right now you seem so far away
So much confusion clouds my way

And I don’t know which path to take.”

Holy devotion, it’s Kylie Minogue!! She’s a sinner. Or a saint. Hell, how would I know?

I just started to daydream following the duet performed by the Voices.

No, really.

 

Unspoken

“Unspoken” is a dense, epic-ish song. It also mentions the name of the band for the first time: “Don’t you ever understand / That if it hurts I’ll do whatever I can?”.

However, that would be the only existing compassionate statement, since the main themes here are irreconcilable difference, misunderstanding and separation.

It is the story of a man and a woman who used to love each other with genuine passion (“We watched the rockets kiss the sky / I saw the flames burn out in your eyes”), but who are lately experiencing a fall-out-of-love issue. He’s doing his best, but he feels frustrated by her wanting him to change dramatically in order to suit her aspiring needs (Nothing that I do / Will ever be enough for you / Whatever I do, whatever I do. / Take me as I am / I’ll never be the other man”).

The man is an inflexible fatalist: “And if it’s set in motion / I’ll watch it all pass by. / And leave the rest unspoken / I’ll never change my mind”). He accepts distress and loneliness as a price to pay for moral integrity. He would not take the last step, but is willing to embrace fate as it presents itself:

“So just let me go
I won’t change my mind.
I’d rather be lonely
Than be by your side.
And nothing you say
Could save us this time.
I’d rather be lonely”.

Which made me recall the famous ‘unsolvable’ problem that our physics teacher used to silence us with in class: what happens when an unstoppable force hits an unmovable object?

Actually, in time, I found out. The infinite energy of the unstoppable force would instantly be transformed by the unmovable object into tremendous heat. And…umm…

They both explode.

 

Water

-OK, OK. We need something to cool this off.

-A ballad, with a soft piano tune, some violins, you as a pale-faced-dark-haired crooner?

-With existential angst?

-Wait. I never said anything about angst.

-Of course you didn’t. I read it in your eyes every day.

-I’m just tired, man. We all are.

-“There’s something in the water / I do not feel safe”.

-“It always feels like torture / To be this close”.

-You know what I mean.

-Fucking water. Fucking deep.

-Bollocks, man. Just… Just don’t go there.

-No way. I’m scared of falling in.

-Should we call Evelyn?

-No, we still have Verona.

 

Hidden track

If you passed out before the bonus track, you just missed Verona. She is bright and she promises a different tomorrow. Just like that.

Rationale

And, last but not least, let me say why I bothered to review this album by “Hurts” (the choice of English instead of Romanian needs no explanation). Well, it is because within this soulless (incorporated) cosmos of stereotyped mechanical renditions of pop music, “Hurts” is about having a heart. A heart that bleeds music. I respect that, as I reserve myself the right to be incomparably moved and amazed by “Happiness”. Cheers, guys, and best of luck.

Reclame

~ de ubiquus pe noiembrie 15, 2010.

8 răspunsuri to “Hurts. Happiness. Love.”

  1. Sa inteleg ca esti la curent cu amanarea concertului lor din Bucuresti pentru 7 aprilie 2011? Or fi aflat unde este de fapt RO in ultimul moment? Precum colega mea de master americanca, Amanda, care a „aplicat” cu aplicatie la o bursa in Alexandria, in ideea ca e aproape de capitala, si s a pomenit in… Egipt. Go figure!

    Blood, Tears and Gold mi a stors vreo doo lacrimi. Cat despre sange si aur… ce fata nu le are? 🙂 Scuza mi bruschetea, sunt intr o dispozitie inclinata (indoita de sale ar fi o imagine mai corecta) spre vivisectie.

    Am mai produs doo si pentru Stay. E incredibil, domle. Doo cate doo. Inceputul videoclipului imi aminteste de Breaking the waves. Inca un stimul al glandelor cu pricina. Dar stimulul nu se dovedeste suficient de puternic de asta data. Dezvolt rezistenta? Mmm… nu. Efect garantat.

    Mmm… Evelyn… sper ca si vecinilor mei le plac mainile reci. Sau muzica tare prin pereti. Pe fereastra vad o sosea mare si luminata care teoretic ar putea duce oriunde, dar practic nu duce nicaieri. Merge bine cu alienarea urbana (suntem de acord, da?) a britanicilor Hurts. Si cu Evelyn, si cu noaptea, si cu lipsa.

    Si din nou Blood, Tears and Gold. Live. Suna incredibil de miscatoriu. Pana la… „Love goes cold.” There we go again.

    Verona. Ruleaza r-ul ceea ce mi gadila simtul limbii native. E incantatoriu acest r rulat.

    M am intors la Stay. Doar doar ii erodez fascinul holbandu ma inapoi.

    Blood, Tears and Gold din nou. Cred ca avem 3 castigatoare. Mai exploram.

    Ma opresc aici. Si continuu auditiile si repetitiile intr un loc inaccesibil vazului tau. Dar accesibil gandului… bla bla.

    Multumesc pentru Hurts.

    • Heh, o fana. In fine. Ce fain.

      Ce sa zic, mie îmi plac Hurts pentru ca suna bine, sub toate aspectele. Vocea solistului e coapta (pe alocuri putreda), ritmurile scoase din synth nu sunt mecanice si reci, ci stabilesc o relatie cordiala cu urechea ascultatorului, versurile stralucesc (pe alocuri orbesc), iar, last but not least, punerea în scena este gândita frumos.

      Apoi, îmi plac pentru ca (re)prezinta teme vechi de când lumea cu un suflu nou si o obraznicie înteleapta; pentru ca vorbesc despre dragoste fara a ne îngretosa nici cu excesul nici cu lipsa ei; pentru ca râcâie, dincolo de sânge si lacrimi, rugina de pe artefactele electro-popului pentru a topi lingouri luminoase de aur; pentru ca se întrebuinteaza fara menajamente.

      Mai îmi plac pentru ca, la o prima vedere, Hutchcraft m-a enervat cumplit cu alura lui de cyborg spalacit, de robot de serie, de Falco apatic, de Sheldon Cooper spastic, de fiinta fara proprietati. Apoi, mi-am dat seama ca nu poti cânta lucruri ca ‘Blood, Tears and Gold’ sau ‘Stay’ ramânând uman, râzând, rosu în obraji, batând virtual cuba cu ascultatorul. Poate gresesc, dar cred ca „Hurts” stabilesc dinadins o distantare exterioara ca sa permita o apropiere interioara.

      Imi plac pentru ca în spatiul unui album au stiut sa creeze o lume. Imi vor ramâne mereu în minte Susie si Evelyn, chiar si dupa ce se va aseza praful pe albumul asta. Cât de greu este sa creezi un personaj puternic! Unora le-a luat sute de pagini, si nu cred ca un Hans Castorp, de exemplu, e mai simpatic si mai memorabil ca fetele noastre. Ce frumos începe povestea lui Susie, on the bridge, ca un roman de Paul Auster. O scânteie neasteptata, într-o noapte ploioasa. Continua ca într-un Julian Barnes, ca o sarbatoare a caracterului surprinzator si eliberator al iubirii. Si se termina cu o revelatie aproape dickensiana, unde ‘blasé baby’ este un neo-Scrooge care vede lumina.

      Ma rog, exagerez, idealizez. Dar ai înteles ca ‘Wonderful Life’ e melodia mea preferata, alaturi de ‘Evelyn’. Drum triggers.

      PS. Se pare ca la concertul (reprogamat) de la Bucuresti s-au vândut toate biletele. Nu cred ca se asteptau – în Anglia, Franta si Germania cânta prin caféuri, cluburi si sali mici. As fi tentat sa merg în februarie la Paris. Au spectacol la ‘Le Trianon’, un loc genial si paradoxal, un teatru de secol XIX prins între un magazin de electronice si un coafor afro (cel putin asa l-am gasit eu prin 2000).
      Dar ma multumesc si sa-i ascult la ipod. Asta ca sa ma opun chinezului care zice: ‘o calatorie de o mie de kilometri începe mereu cu un pas’. Chinezule, fii atent aci: ‘o stare pe loc începe mereu cu o stare’.
      And it feels better than love.

  2. Dear ubiquus, let me say that it’s been a great reading, this little review of yours. Thumbs up, I totally dig your gutsy albeit dainty approach.

    I am both a Hurts fan and an avid reader of music journals like Q, Rolling Stone or Blender, and I reckon I very seldom see this kind of review in media nowadays (with the exception of Will Hermes, possibly). I have also been a college teacher for some time, and from this perspective I genuinely enjoyed your use of elevated English (especially since it doesn’t seem to be your mother tongue, considering the language used for older posts).

    There are plenty of nuances that set this review apart, besides it having a heart. I liked your “drum trigger” metaphor especially. Or the “pop mantra” concoction. Or the irony behind the comment regarding our established superstar writers. The unorthodox confabulation made up for “Water” made me giggle out loudly, while in the teachers’ lounge. I seriously regret not being able to read the rest of your blog.

    PS. My real name is actually Susan. So, take it from me: never give up, it’s a wonderful life.

    • (Needless to say: I told you so, Ubi!)

      Dear Susan, you might have just made Ubiquus’ day by mentioning the giggles in the teachers’ lounge. If I were more suspicious I d say that you were the alter ego of someone really keen on making one of his fantasies come true. 🙂 But I m not – suspicious, that is.

      Yup, author of music reviews with a heart and twist, sensitive observer of everyday life – whether his or others’, prose writer tirelessly engaged in disentangling himself from dialogues of his own making… I ll leave the rest unspoken.

  3. Hm. The thing is not the thing.
    And allow me to explain myself.

    Once, they used to say ‘seeing is believing’. This no longer stands with the birth of virtuality. Well, it’s ok, past is past and we are living the (virtually bright) future. However, to answer someone’s suspicions and mine, I would frankly and wholeheartedly say that I’m quite fond of alter egos. I personally encourage and cultivate them whenever and wherever I can. What I’m not really confortable with is egos. (Unless the correct plural form is ‘nos’).

    Soo… cheers to both of you, Thistress and Loleetchen, for trying to flatter and pervert my own ego(s) back into self-righteousness. You know, we struggled a bit in the past, and I had to feed ‘em more than blood, tears and gold to eventually come to terms. But it’s a process, so don’t feed the monkeys.

    Ego à part, I’m glad to find out that at least two nice people enjoy good music and do not consider my take on it as entirely bonkers. It encourages me to write more about stuff I love.

    FYI, right now I’m enthralled by a recent album of a French singer (rather cartoonishly) named Bénabar. The album is called ‘Les risques du métier’. It means ‘Occupational hazards’ in english – and it’s really about the hazards involved by everyday life. It’s one of the most existentialist music creations of our time and I eventually envisage to review it. In French, of course 🙂

    Another French guy once said, wisely dipping his baguette into sauce bourguignon, that restaurants are mouth brothels. Well, I think blogs are soul brothels. Soul Babel Brothels, to be more holistic.

    And isn’t that awesome?

  4. Hmm..impresionant. De-a dreptul incantator articolul in care ai disecat pana in strafundul tesuturilor existentiale esenta melodiilor sublime al acestei formatii absolut geniale, pe care ne-a putut-o oferi industria muzicala din ultimii ani. Alte cuvinte ar fi de prisos. 🙂

  5. Hei, multumesc pentru vizita si pentru cuvintele frumoase.

    Cât despre Hurts, nu pot decât sa sper si sa le doresc sa aibe continuitate; e greu când începi în forta, pentru ca trebuie cel putin sa mentii ritmul ca sa ramâi pe o panta ascendenta. Dar am încredere în ei, si mai ales în Adam, omul de la clape si din spatele bogatului sunet Hurts, pentru ca e genul (atipic pentru scena pop) de individ modest si serios care tace si face; mie îmi aminteste de Martin Gore, de la Depeche Mode, si asta e o referinta caracteriala zdravana. Om trai si-om asculta:)

  6. Eu zâmbesc niţel, citind comentariile voastre de aici şi vă doresc ceea ce mi-aş dori şi mie, însă dacă ar fi vorba despre Depeche Mode. Să ajungeţi să-i vedeţi în concert pe cei de la Hurts.

    Nu am ascultat foarte mult Hurts, însă îmi amintesc bine că mi-a rămas într-un playlist, o singură piesă de-a lor, Stay, pusă pe repeat. Însă după ce-am citit aici, mi-am dat seama că tot pe vremea aia, fredonam Don’t let go! Never give up – it’s such a wonderful life! fără să mă mai întreb de unde. Acu ştiu, eram Susie şi stăteam pe pod! 🙂

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