PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Hurts: Exile

Although the music on second album Exile is at times more aligned with Hurts’ austere image than 2010’s Happiness, Hurts still struggles with adding depth to its fairly conventional pop songs.


Hurts

Exile

Label: Sony UK
US Release Date: 2013-03-19
UK Release Date: 2013-03-11
Amazon
iTunes

The term “style over substance” has been used many times before in describing pop acts, but in the case of British synth-pop duo Hurts, it truly applies. Singer Theo Hutchcraft and musician Adam Anderson look like Hedi Slimane’s personal mannequins and bring a refreshing severity to pop’s aesthetic landscape. Although the music on second album Exile is at times more aligned with Hurts’ austere image than 2010’s Happiness, Hurts is still struggling with adding depth to its fairly conventional pop songs.

Some of the darkness Hurts brings to the table is certainly commendable, but musically Exile is –apart from a few novel touches – rarely memorable enough. In Hutchcraft’s hands, naming a pop song something fairly conventional, like “Blind”, means that song is going to involve Hutchcraft pleading to have his eyes torn out rather than see his former lover again. “Cupid” and “Sandman” take a slightly S&M approach to their titular characters, Hutchcraft beseeching of the former to let its arrows break the skin of an object of affection; the latter seems to be about death wishing insomnia away. Despite any deviousness, these songs come dressed in gaudy pop motifs: “O-way-o” choruses, slick synth lines, and vaguely hip-hoppish beats. “Sandman”, in a nicely sick twist, even features what sounds like a children’s chorus.

When Hurts allow for musical adventurousness, it often comes in the form of some poorly executed bubblegum-industrial edginess. “The Road” was picked to soundtrack a video teaser for Exile, and it is this song which best showcases what the album could have been. On one hand, it’s always nice to see a pop act trying to slip some literacy into the mainstream (although nothing can touch the Normal’s “Warm Leatherette” as far as references to J.G. Ballard’s Crash go, but nice job anyway). Additionally, the production on the harder musical moments sometimes sounds far murkier than Exile’s slicker, more conventional moments in a way that is galling; songs are mixed in a way that robs any hair-raising moments of potential.

The album’s more subdued moments fare better. Although it’s musically a little too close to Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Games” to be truly brilliant, the lyrical conceit of “The Crow” is bound to set some dark hearts a-flutter, and is possibly a genuinely new move as far as comparing women to things in pop music goes. Elton John contributes some piano-playing on the very Elton John-sounding “Help,” but the song is still lovely enough in its own right to keep from seeming too much like pure homage.

Mostly, however, Exile isn’t as intriguing as it may think it is. Hutchcraft and Anderson offer up some decent ideas, but too often Hurts’ music doesn’t sound far enough removed from whatever else is in the Top 40 on any given week. No matter how many dark subjects are nested throughout, too often the music on Exile falls back into the same old tricks of bells-and-whistles pop choruses and obvious hooks. The band is, in a very small way, doing a service to the pop landscape by bringing a little danger into play; it just might be good to check back when this duo gets better at executing it.

5

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.