Hurts – Happiness
Mancunian electro-duo Hurts (singer Theo Hutchcraft and knob-twiddler Adam Anderson) have been dividing opinion ever since they released debut single ‘Better Than Love’ earlier this year. Some see their heavily polished and highly stylised 80’s synth-pop as too cold and clinical and a demonstration of everything that went wrong with 80’s music the first time round. Others, though, can’t get enough of their elegant, dramatic and poised electro-pop. One thing’s for sure though – if a new band can elicit such strong opinions then they’re definitely doing something right.
When you listen to debut album Happiness it becomes clear why Hurts polarise opinion so much. Yes, the album is full of the overproduced, distant synth soundscapes and overblown emotive lyrics (“Say goodbye in the pouring rain / And I break down as you walk away”) that characterised the worst of 80’s music. But it is also brimming with pop songs on such a massive, almost heroic scale, that it’s hard not to like.
Second single ‘Wonderful Life’ uses ear-splitting drums and a powerful synth melody as the back-drop to Hutchcraft’s life-affirming narrative which sounds like something the Human League would be proud of. It also manages to ratchet up the nostalgia levels even further with a sumptuous sax solo.
‘Sunday’ is a joyous run-through of great 80’s pop, with the piercing and rhythmic synths driving the melody towards a huge, radio-friendly chorus. ‘Stay’, on the other hand, is the sort of loveably schmaltzy power ballad that Gary Barlow would kill for – and features a choir backed chorus that’s got ‘Christmas Top Of The Tops’ stamped all over it!
The stand-out track on Happiness, and Hurts’ defining song so far, has to be first single ‘Better Than Love’. It’s pure 80’s excess and revels in its soulless, reckless abandon – sounding like the sort of thing Patrick Bateman would use to soundtrack an orgy.
As much as it sparkles, though, Happiness does nothing to win over those who see Hurts as a cynical record-label creation aimed at exploiting the current 80’s trend. Its unapologetic dredging of 80’s influences is acceptable when it works, but on nothing songs like ‘Evelyn’ and ‘Blood, Tears & Gold’ it becomes a bit grating.
While Happiness is not without its faults, we could be looking back on it in a few years as a classic, defining album of the 80’s revival – it all depends on where Hurts go from here. For now we’re happy to sit back and see how it all plays out!