Review Summary: The crackers, Gromit! We forgot the crackers!!
Even in the turbulent, hype-fuelled realms of British music, it's difficult to recall an act in recent times who've proved as divisive as Mancunian duo Hurts. An increasingly massive presence on mainland Europe, Theo Hutchcraft and Adam Anderson are nevertheless finding recognition harder to come by in their homeland, where their slick, shamelessly commercial synthpop continues to split opinion like a robust nutcracker. Even the press - so often the industry's designated tastemakers - struggled to strike any form of agreement regarding 2010's debut LP Happiness
, and for better or worse, follow-up Exile
won't do anything to resolve that squabble.
In a way, Hurts' entire plight is epitomised by "Sandman," the third track from the new record. Setting out all guns blazing, its opening stages are rife with hooks and smack of stadium-filling potential, only for the song to perform a complete bellyflop with the type of chorus any self-respecting writer wouldn't even present before their companions. It's an issue that's bound to raise it's head on occasion, so precarious is the line they tread between arms-aloft anthemism and hideous cheesiness, but here, as before, the pair too often find themselves tumbling into the latter camp. Granted, there are plenty of other moments such as the opening title track and lead single "Miracle" (the most blatant "Paradise" rip-off you're ever likely to hear) which hold undeniable qualities, but even these are let down either by a swathe of hideous lyrics or their apparent inability to write a chorus that's not utterly cringeworthy. Or both.
Sadly, these stained beacons are about as good as it gets, since Exile
also carries a baggage of material bearing no redeeming features whatsoever. These misdemeanors come to a head with "The Crow" and "Somebody To Die For," a feeble on-two punch which effectively grinds what little momentum the rest of the record has gathered to a painful, plodding halt. It's hard to imagine anyone garnering enjoyment from such mundane dregs, but it'll no doubt be lapped up on the continent, where Hutchcraft's whinesome Bellamy-esque croon is celebrated as opposed to scorned, and as long as that's the case, Hurts aren't about to go away - regardless of this album's quality, or lack thereof.