City and Colour is many things to many different people. Depending on who you ask, the moniker from which Dallas Green releases his solo albums will imaginably conjure a flurry of, “that guy from Alexisonfire”, for his work as the guitarist and background vocalist in the popular post-hardcore band, “Canadian celebrity”, on account of his three platinum-certified albums, equal number of Juno award wins, and of course, his relationship with MuchMusic and So You Think You Can Dance host, Leah Miller. Perhaps most common though, is “acoustic singer-songwriter”, considering the nature of his back catalog. But, on The Hurry and the Harm, Green’s latest full-length album, a more appropriate term likely lies somewhere between “band leader” and “frontman” – a trend started with 2011’s Little Hell.
For his fourth album and 22nd overall release, The Hurry and the Harm is an extremely solid effort. The title track of which opens the record with a tasteful and anchored acoustic guitar-led jaunt through swelling pedal steel accents and Green’s effortless vocal delivery. Unlike it’s title, the song neither hurries, nor harms; it’s careful, well-calculated, and like the remainder of the album, a safe coming out that reaches for the center. “Harder Than Stone” follows more involved than the former, introducing multiple guitar tracks, both of strumming and picking varieties, and the underlying pulse of a strong bass. Upbeat, the track is busy with varied instrumentation, yet is arranged in a way that allows the song to breathe and focus on Green’s lyrical articulation.
The record’s stand-out tracks come midway through the album with the one-two salvo of “Commentators” and lead single, “Thirst”. The first is a stark departure from the album and the whole of Green’s discography in that it is possibly the brightest, most pop-centric song ever committed to the moniker. “Thirst” on the other hand, is less beaming and more headstrong. Slow starting for the first-third, it’s the relaxed and half-time breakdown in the chorus that surely made the song an easy choice for promoting the record.
Ultimately, the album begins to drag past the ninth track. Dallas Green’s repertoire of acoustic torch songs, backed with a steady, yet uninteresting rhythm section leaves much to be desired. While those unfamiliar with his confident, albeit breathy falsetto will be undoubtedly impressed with these songs, it’s the initiated that will likely remain ambivalent. Save for the inclusion of the backing band introduced on his last record, The Hurry and the Harm is a significant step back to his barebones, acoustic guitar-driven roots. Gone are the guitar solos, heavy synthesizers, and the majority of all in-your-face electric instrumentation. And although these “return to form” shifts are often celebrated and welcomed from an artist of Green’s stature – having spent the majority of his career outside the DIY circles of his upbringing – it’s a step in a direction opposite to that of such great head-way made on his last, and dramatically developmental LP. Tracks like “Weightless” and “Sorrowing Man”, a couple of Little Hell’s strongest and most powerful and undeniably popular tracks, find no suitable companion on The Hurry and the Harm. Both are chock-full of larger-than-life crescendos, vocal and instrumental segments that while running parallel to each other were able to achieve a steadfast syncopation, are simply impossible to achieve while the full breadth of Green’s band remaining unactivated. The lingering issue seems to be that while The Hurry and the Harm holds back on the theatrics, Green continues to write as if it were a true follow-up to the style honed on Little Hell.
Not dissimilar to Chris Carrabba’s Dashboard Confessional, who also juggled vocal duties in a post-hardcore band, few could have ever imaged where Dallas Green would land a decade into an endeavor dubbed nothing more than a side-project at its inception. And not so much the success, notoriety and acclaim – his raw talent as a songwriter should have been lost on none – more so, the evolution of his sound, and what such assertiveness would manifest itself in his work, and this album. While imperfect, The Hurry and the Harm is a collection of songs still lightyears ahead of most popular artists played on both Canadian and American airwaves.