They’re number 2 in Germany! No idea how, mind…
Frank Kogan: New pop as reimagined by dour existentialists. Drizzle, an empty bridge, grim nothingness beyond. I must be a sucker for finding this so beautiful.
Rebecca Toennessen: OH SHUT UP FOREVER.
Edward Okulicz: A re-release, but a vital one. Moody and retro, but a fantastic song that could have worked in any arrangement. The vignette is slight but dissolute and intriguing, Theo’s singing isn’t iffy like on “Better than Love” and the mantra-like chorus is the sort of thing that could burn into your eardrums and never leave.
Anthony Easton: Languor and ease, so often thought to be decadence, collapse into laziness.
Martin Kavka: Over the months that I’ve been listening to this since the first video was released, I’ve come really close to hating it. The lyrics are just awful and sexist, about a woman with an unhealthy belief that she is in possession of Lips That Redeem Men From Their Deep Dark Pain. The eight-note guitar solo is only outdone in its badness by the sax solo that follows. The beat-on-the-5-but-not-on-the-6 drum pattern is quite close to the one we all heard last year in “Rabbit Heart” (and before that). But Hurts deserves points for being the most aesthetically serious band in ages. The imagery of their promotional material is so carefully planned to be out of joint with this age that their songs gain a revelatory power that they wouldn’t otherwise deserve. And so I am almost persuaded that they could save pop, even if they release the worst dreck from their album as singles (e.g. “Stay”).
Michaelangelo Matos: Is the fact that this anti-suicide song sounds so morose supposed to be ironic or something?
Martin Skidmore: I gave the last two tracks we reviewed by them 3/10 each, but this is much better. The vocal is restrained, making the weakness into something approaching a virtue, the synth backing also leans towards the haunting, and there’s some good guitar in the middle. Vitally, the lyric is also far better, about a guy being persuaded not to commit suicide. I can’t say there is quite enough to make me love it, but I do like it, and I am close to being genuinely moved.
Iain Mew: This sounds more of a faultless, finished product than the somewhat all-over-the-place “Better Than Love”. Where that had an unpredictable intensity which dragged it to life and to now, though, this is definitely more of a period piece. Exquisitely and precisely observed, but with an inevitable predictability to its moves.
Kat Stevens: The singer dude’s face reminds me so much of Matt Goss that I’ve had trouble accepting the possibility that Hurts might be good. Fair play to them for attempting to mine a section of the 80s that pop revivalism has so far ignored: the atmospheric post-yuppie emo of similarly ungoogleable singer Black. Those Simple Minds-style gated drums don’t fool me, I can spot Hurts’ true goal from the subtle clue in the song title. I wonder if their next tune will be called “Wicked Game”?
Mallory O’Donnell: If you’re going to sound straight outta the 80’s, at least do it properly. Hurts do, here. In “Wonderful Life”, the minor-key melodrama takes precedence over Hurts’ quite evident desire to craft epic, perfect pop. The result is something that resounds because it doesn’t overreach – the synth and treated sax vibrate with the same emotional quality as the overwrought lyric. Everything more pale and distantly warm than everything else. Somewhere, there is a light that finally goes out.
David Raposa: I’m not sure if this track sounds familiar because I’ve inadvertently heard it somewhere else, or because it sounds like a hundred other po-faced synthpop tracks, and the fact that this thing is trying to unfurl its bathetic boy-saved-by-girl narrative with a straight face while Theo Hutchcraft proclaims “it’s such a wonderful life” in such an unintentionally arch fashion produces an effect that I’m assuming isn’t what Hurts intended. I’m not asking these guys to exchange sincerity for slapstick, but even the most dour & poofy pop pouters knew how silly they could sound.
Alfred Soto: Although I’ve cooled on this one — the vocal’s on the wrong side of morose — I can’t deny the backup chipmunks squeaking out platitudes over the chorus or how the synth/drum programming dovetails with said morose vocal to rein in the melodrama on what would be a pompous bad time. What’s most curious about this Eighties retread is the absence of sexual ambiguity; it’s as if the requisite emotions demand the guiding spirits of second stringers like Camouflage and When in Rome instead of Soft Cell or Erasure. If the quality of the follow-up singles is to be believed, second string status is the limit of their ambition.