Hurts - Happiness
With a dress-sense that would re-ignite the fire in Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s eyes, cuff-rolling and top-button-do-uppers Hurts are casting their perfected eighties apocalypse-is-coming-but-do-I-give-a-shit expressions all over this forsaken place, ready to release debut album Happiness. The duo, aka Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson, position themselves perfectly upright on Tears For Fears’ Big Chair, complete with expressions that would even make the Goss brothers happy. As first impressions go, you’d probably expect to see their strictly straight-faced attitude plastered on the walls of a Nathan Barley-esque office space, or failing that, onstage at a Mighty Boosh convention.
It is true that at times their eighties obsession seems worthy of a counselling appointment, but it could be a blessing considering that the current abundance of self-titled indie sprawl which frankly offers nothing independent but the ability to be the same, and has left us staring at a rather unhealthy amount of tumbleweed. So yes ladies and gentlemen, the 80s are back, so perm your hair like Kylie, saddle next to a Donovan look-a-like and break out the Wine Coolers.
Don’t dust off your “Tony Hadley, we love you madly!” banners just yet. On debut single ‘Better Than Love’, the duo positioned themselves down the pot-holed road that is more reminiscent of Simple Minds than Spandau Ballet. Opener ‘Silver Lining’ puts these nostalgic notches in the bed post, residing itself in the eye of a multicell electrical storm and using its electro-flutterings to instantly dunk your head into an aural orange and cherry Double Dip - complete with a Swizzlestick. Its impetuous pop-fervour vocals steps-up the energy and swoons its way past the heavy tinned drum beat into real anthemic potential. Of course, having an onslaught of violins and a monk-like chant at the end helps no end.
This anthem-chasing doesn't wane after the storm though. The monks make their comeback in power-ballad to end all power-ballads, ‘Stay’, which cries out with all of the exasperation found in the farewells at a 1930s train station. The apparent inclusion of nearly every choir in the Yellow Pages also hints at a desperate attempt to tick the ‘song of epic proportions’ box, complete with mental images of wind machines on full throttle and doves being released in the background. Its over-zealous attempt at awe unfortunately rubs off into ‘Illuminated’ and ‘Evelyn’, whose forlorn intonations are more suitable for a musical version of ‘Bleak House’ than a record entitled ’Happiness’.
Thankfully ‘Wonderful Life’, ‘Unspoken’, and ‘Devotion’ are at hand to reduce the risk of Hurts projecting a marmite facade that has the potential to even leave a bad taste in their mouths. Kylie Minogue’s appearance (sadly without Jason) in the latter track adds a milky consistency to Hutchcraft’s borrowed echoes of George Michael, which melt satisfyingly with the deep-bassed drum kit that has made many-an-appearance on a Depeche Mode record.
Although it’s safe to say Hurts aren’t exactly going to be everyone’s cup of tea, the duo have opened a portal into the past. In fact, their eighties-rejuvenation is like recycling a deflated, treadless tyre and transforming it into a highly-durable pencil case: constructive and pragmatic, but still retaining an essence of the original. One thing’s for certain, the spirit of 1984 has found his unfinished business.