Review Summary: It looks as if Green has finally escaped from his little Hell, but what is fortunate for him may be unfortunate for his listeners, as his songwriting seems to have suffered in return.
When looking back on City and Colour’s discography, I found that I enjoyed his first album, Sometimes (and was a bit taken aback by the completely different direction from his main band, Alexisonfire), thought the follow up was a bit of a rehash and not as strong as the debut, and then just fell in love with the music of Little Hell. The Hurry and the Harm is a bit of déja vu to Bring Me Your Love, as it is a a dip in quality when compared to the former. Mr. Green seems to be less conflicted and even a little optimistic in spots on his fourth album.
“Thirst,” “Two Coins,” and “Ladies and Gentlemen” are all highlights here; “Thirst” being one of the more active songs (like “Fragile Bird” and “Weightless” from Little Hell) that just hooks the listener from beginning to end (as well as being one of the few songs with an electric guitar this time around), and “Ladies and Gentlemen” just shows Green doing what he does best, which is writing gorgeous acoustic ballads. While “Ladies and Gentlemen” is great, “Two Coins” one ups it and steals the show here. The song represents the cover, showing Green’s face represented in darkness and light, with its chorus: “I’ve always been dark/With light somewhere in the distance,” which is surprising since he chose “The Hurry and the Harm” song title as the name of the album. Everything just comes together on “Two Coins” with the somber chord progression of the guitars, the flowing bass and drums, the well placed guitar solo, and Green’s incredible voice and well thought out lyrics tying it all together; it is one of C&C’s best songs to date.
When there is good, sometimes there is also bad, and unfortunately The Hurry and the Harm has its fair share of both. “The Golden State” (which is about his disinterest in California) is just entirely uninteresting from pretty much every aspect, and even his voice can’t save the song from plodding along at its ridiculously slow pace and long running time. The lyrics are commenting about why everyone keeps singing about California and how he doesn’t relate to it at all. It feels like a bit of a contradiction since he decided to write an entire song about the state (which is exactly what he is complaining about in the first place) and maybe would have come off better if he had just mentioned it in passing in another song or two and just cut “The Golden State” out entirely. “Take Care” also has its share of problems, but for once it’s actually Green's singing that is holding back the song. The guitar arpeggios are actually quite nice and soothing and are accompanied by the occasional string part to give it a little more depth, but Green’s vocals seem a little phoned in as he croons about a friend that needs to better watch out for himself. “Paradise” has a similar issue on the verses, but the chorus comes in to save the day, while “Death Song” would be better if not for the repetitive nature of the song:
Singing my death song X3
This is my death song
That’s it; that’s the whole thing. There’s one verse and then this, over and over again. After a solid couple minutes of that, the song just fades out with the chorus chord progression and the “oh-oh-oh-oh” vocal line on repeat. We all know you have a beautiful voice, Dallas, but come on: You can give us a little more than that, either lyrically or instrumentally, to give this song a little more life with its near 5 minute running time.
“Commentators” and “Harder than Stone” are both surprisingly bouncy and fun songs (even though the latter is still on the depressing side lyrically), which is definitely not the norm for Green, while “The Lonely Life” also has a very upbeat vibe coupled with a darker tone. It has a very rigid and stiff flow with the drums and bass on the verses that really drive the song along and then perfectly transitions into the half time feel of the more free flowing choruses. It joins the ranks of a definitely front-loaded album, and “Ladies and Gentlemen” is the only thing that saves the last four songs from drowning themselves in a sea of near skip-able tracks.
Mr. Green’s light seems to be in a bit of an uprising over the dark parts of him, and, as they battle it out in The Hurry and the Harm, the results are a mixed bag of songs ranging from fantastic to passable. I just can’t help but wonder if it’s a bit too much to ask of him to let the darkness reign supreme for maybe just a little bit longer.
A little disappointed in this, but it happens. A higher 3 (stuck between a 3.2 and 3.3) that is close to a 3.5, but not quite. Maybe it will grow on me some more with time. Feedback and constructive criticism is welcome and appreciated!
Here are some links if you haven't heard this yet and want to try some of it out:
Definitely agree with that. It was close to a 3.5 for me, but it didn't quite make it.
"Nothing revolutionary, but sweet melodies. I'm ok with that."
Ha ha, that's part of the chorus of Commentators. Intentional? Probably. I wasn't expecting it to be either. Little Hell isn't really anything 'revolutionary' and I frickin love that album.
@Ed - Yeah that's my thoughts pretty much. The songs I linked are my favorites, then there are some other solid tracks, but the last few tracks aside from Ladies and Gentlemen are just not so great.
@Storm - Really? That's cool, man, but I find that a little surprising when I look at his other works. Like I said, I love Little Hell and Sometimes is awesome too. Bring Me Your Love is pretty good and this is just a bit below it for me.
I have jst a couple things to say about this review. First off, it's clear you have a very firm grasp on grammar, which makes it refreshing to look over this. I don't have to point out the nitpicky things, which I love.
The main thing I will say is that your reviews, while being grammatically sound, lack a particular voice about them. It literally feels like you typed up things you said to me after I asked you about City and Colour's discography-- there's nothing wrong with being conversationalist, not at all, but when doing so, it's vital that you bring up important, interesting points.
Shy away from statements like "I enjoyed his first album, Sometimes", because this doesn't tell me anything important about the album. I read reviews to understand why you have the opinion you do, not what your opinion is in the first place. That number at the top of the screen tells me all I need to know about what you enjoy and don't enjoy.
Instead, focus on why you enjoy particular aspects of the music. What makes you connect with that album? Is it a personal album, an introspective one? Is the instrumentation dynamic? Does the singer's voice just do a great job at conveying emotion? And if so, why does that speak to you?
Focus on these questions, and the big ones. If the album conjures images in your mind, what are they, and how may I be able to relate to them? Which songs best exemplify this? Is there an overall theme for the album, a specific mood it conveys?
Think about these questions, because ultimately this is what our experiences with music stem down to. It isn't about track two working well, but track four being a little inadequate. It's about what we take from it, and if you work towards finding a way to convey this to readers, then you'll be in good shape. I have no doubts you can do this, too-- you're clearly a very competent writer. I think this is just a case where when you write, you seem to focus on the less important details. Be sure not to miss the forest for its trees-- the relationship you have with the music at hand.
Also, one thing that will help you immensely is reading a ton of really good reviews. Feel free to look through Pitchfork, to see how they describe music. Instead of saying a song is good, they may describe how it breathes naturally, etc. They find creative ways to sidestep the ordinary descriptions. Also, feel free to look through my most recent reviews-- I think some of my latest have been my best, even though (obviously) there are a few things I'd like to improve on.
Hmm... alright, Omaha. I have a feeling I am going to be reading over this quite a few times until I can figure out a way to work this into how I write. Thanks for the input/advice and the kind words, and I appreciate you taking the time to give this a read.
I hope you aren't intimidated by all I said, haha. It was all because I think you could be a really great writer, and I want to be able to help as much as possible.
The only thing I could say is that experience is the best way to learn. I've learned things from each of my reviews, and I still have a ton of things I need to improve! If you do feel the desire to keep reviewing, then I'll be happy to keep looking things over and helping you out.
Also, for the record, this is not a bad review at all. You do a good job of analyzing the album, and your descriptions do a good job of painting a picture of the album.