The Hours: See the Light

David Smith

Piano-loving two-piece forget to write the tunes for their pompous sophomore album.

The Hours

See the Light

US Release: Import
UK Release: 2009-04-20
Label: A&M;

Keane, you’ve got a lot to answer for. When the toffee-nosed trio released their debut Hopes & Fears in 2004, subsequently becoming proud owners of one of the biggest-selling debuts in UK chart history, it was obvious the floodgates were wide open for well-bred, piano-tinkering indie bands -- a direct reaction to the success of Coldplay.

But as is the case with most aftershocks of a big event, the effects get less and less, well, affective. Keane gave us a very good debut album, yet they’ve never been able to match the world-conquering heights of Chris Martin’s increasingly messiah-like outfit.

And since Keane, we’ve seen a number of (mainly UK-based) indie acts dropping the guitars and choosing instead to tinkle on the ivories. Elton John must’ve had his fingers crossed for a renaissance. One of the more promising names to emerge in this vein has been the Hours. Arriving in 2007 with debut album Narcissus Road and a beatific, slow-burning single called "Back When You Were Good", they promised much, with the band’s core members previously having done time in Pulp, Elastica, and Black Grape.

Two years later and it’s make-or-break time: In these days of illegal Internet downloading and economic deflation, being a band on your second album is a scary time. And whether the the Hours have managed to pull it off or not with See the Light is the $64 million dollar question. So: CD on, ears at the ready… How’ve they tackled album number two?

Singer Antony Genn’s vocals are generally consistently good, although he appears to only be capable of higher-end notes. It’s an interesting voice: generally-speaking, it’s not so much Morrissey, but more Britpop band Gene’s Martin Rossiter at his most Smiths-esque.

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What does grate, however, is the ever-present piano. The Hours seem to have found their ‘sound’, and are defiantly sticking to it, whatever the results. Subsequently we get the likes of "Come On", a beautiful, slow-paced highlight with a simple-yet-effective chorus refrain of "Come on come on come on / Put your arms around me". Tellingly, it’s the shortest track on the album. On the other hand we get the yawn-inducingly long title track and the hollow, exaggerated "The Girl Who Had the World at Her Feet", with ridiculously pompous lyrics like "The cash cow was heading for the abattoir / Everyone wants front row seats". Sadly, See the Light is peppered with more than its fair share of such pompous lyrics. In fact, David Brent would probably like them.

It’s this kind of pretentiousness that makes for a difficult listen. In fact, the song titles themselves reveal all that needs to be known about this album: "Love Is an Action", "Car Crash", the aforementioned "The Girl Who Had the World at Her Feet". See, as See the Light tries to be genuine, it all ends up being a bit draining. In an attempt to make an epic, anthemic piano-based album, the Hours have failed to write any real tunes. Have they pulled it off? Sadly, no. Anyone know when the new Keane album’s out?


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