Album Review: The Hoosiers – ‘The Illusion Of Safety’


Back in 2007, the stale, repetitive, R&B-dominated charts was subjected to quite an earthquake. That earthquake cam in the form of bubble-gum pop and glam-pop; in hibernation for many years, the genre itself is like a volcano – it will not die down for very long.


The last time glam-pop dominated the charts was back in the 70’s, with a few major hits on the 80’s, but then synth-Britannia put a cork on the 12-inch heels, the big hair, the glittery flares, the raging falsettos and tight leather trousers and the list goes on.


Come the beginning of 2007, it looked to be a similarly dull year, with the launch of Leona Lewis’ solo career thanks to the Christmas #1 being ‘Bleeding Love’ (who knew back then the Excrement Factor would become the force it is today?), but then along came Mika; he paved the gateway for many more like him – aswell as bringing the Scissor Sisters’ back bigger than ever – thanks to the more welcome sound after their rocky UK start. Whether you like them or not, both Mika and the Scissor Sisters were huge turning point for reviving the recycled garbage in the charts.


With the charts venturing out into a new sound almost every six months thereafter, we welcomed the change with open-armed praise but after all of that, the next big bubble-gum pop band to grace the airwaves, The Hoosiers, struck many a chord with pop lovers across the nation. In fact, The Hoosiers themselves had struck gold.


Their debut album ‘The Trick To Life’ was full to the brim of golden pop nuggets like ‘Worried About Ray’ and ‘Cops And Robbers’, and Irwin’s unforgettably acrobatic vocals played upon the bubble-gum productions like a child in a nursery. The glam-pop volcano was now erupting in full flow.


But now, times have change again, and your average three-piece band have to keep up if they want to emulate the success of their début, or else suffer the curse of the Sophomore Slump. The Hoosiers have done managed that – they’ve kept up with the times and moved into electropop, but the thing is – has it paid off? Does it feel like they’ve done this properly – as The Hoosiers – rather than three people looking to keep up with the times?


Yes. They do. Immensely well. Not at one point during the quirky, electro-charged 12-song set does it feel like they’ve sold out, or just attempted to do something that’s big now so they sell records – they haven’t alienated the fans they garnered from their 2007 début – in fact, they’ve provided for them, as well as providing for a whole new demographic.


From the flamboyant decorative and the surprisingly dark album cover to the typical Hoosier-type song titles like ‘Giddy Up’, ‘Bumpy Ride’, and ‘Little Brutes’, the album exudes brilliant pop hooks, deliriously catchy productions, and hidden, dark undertones that Mika would be jealous of.


01. ‘Choices’ (4.0 STARS)


‘Choices’ opens what could be the best pop album this year, and it doesn’t fail to advertise the rest of the album in a perfect light. Irwin’s falsetto glides swiftly over staccato synth chords and a mourning electric string backing, probably lending to the Triad-themed video.


Moving through fast-paced verses, into a huge pop chorus, full to the brim with hooks and plenty of typical Hoosier-style “Oooh”s aswell. The song itself is a very good album opener, but during the highlight: the middle eight, you begin to feel and sense of melancholy that’s not heard elsewhere, it’s then you realise the Hoosiers are at it again: a song that, on the surface is very happy, but is actually about clarity from confusion.



02. ‘Bumpy Ride’ (5.0 STARS)


Is that you George Michael? Irwin adopts yet another tone for the husky verses that are accompanied by bouncy synths and a hilarious, Call & Response chorus. The whole thing crescendos all the way up to it’s climax and is without doubt one of the best produced, performed and instrumented on the entire album.


Following suit with ‘Choices’, the song actually deals with a subject far more serious than the song’s face value appears to show, the repeating of “You’ll love it when you let go” and the whole chorus in fact “It’s gonna be a bumpy ride/But it sure beats standing still” and so on suggest the song is about moving forward at a time when you’d rather just stop and give up; the uplifting melody and pop perfection that is ‘Bumpy Ride’s chorus will sort out any of you people who can’t decide what to do with yourselves right now. This is pure, unabashed, euphoric pop.



03. ‘Who Said Anything (About Falling In Love)’ (4.5 STARS)


Ditching the happy-go-lucking visage and Cheshire Cat smiles, The Hoosiers take time to reflect on the beautifully haunting ‘Who Said Anything’. Moving through a slow piano-lead intro, a heavy guitar introduces Irwin’s softer vocals. The shrieking falsetto reigned in, no acrobatic wails where Irwin fits about eight different note to one breath; it’s all very sophisticated, restrained stuff.


The chorus is beautifully written and performed by Irwin, melancholy, erupting with emotion, he sings of a love that he gave everything for, only to find she was otherwise engaged – “Who said anything about fall in love?/I lost my mind when I surrendered everything to find your in love”. With it’s sudden, minor key guitar and middle eight where, as you’d imagine, the real pain and regret can be heard. It’s looking likely to be a single, and it’ll be the first time many will hear a Hoosier ballad: it most certainly doesn’t fail to disappoint.



04. ‘Unlikely Hero’ (4.5 STARS)


What an intro! It sounds like the birth child of Stuart Price and Sonic The Hedgehog! You can imagine hearing it on your old SEGA MegaDrive or an old arcade game. Very swish.


The verses appear to go in one ear and out the other like a boring school teacher but that’s only because the chorus is so comparatively massive it makes Lady GaGa look like a five tear old with a rattle. With typically hilarious Hoosier lyricism like “I like everybody/But not everybody likes me” sung with confident, proclaiming falsetto surely not suited to that kind of lyric? Either way, it works, and as long as you don’t take it too seriously, this song’s more enjoyable than a night out painting the town red. And all of this backed up with more synths than Gary Numan’s attic.



05. ‘Lovers In My Head’ (3.5 STARS)


The verses to this song are faultless, sounding heavily influenced by Supergrass’ ‘We Are Young’ played on a synth, but the chorus takes a turn for the minor key and until you get to the second chorus, the transition from synth to acoustic guitar is a bit out-of-place and doesn’t really ‘work’.


Annoyingly, Irwin manages to over-sing the chorus and it feels very forced but the unquestioned highlight are the parts where he ditches all the vocal ornamentation and is more restrained. The instrumental break is very pleasing as well, because it sounds like a ‘Bridge The Gap’ between Hoosiers of old and Hoosiers of now, and whilst it bridges this gap seamlessly, as a song in it’s own right it doesn’t serve up that goods that are expected considering the quality ofd the other songs on this album.



06. ‘Live By The Ocean’ (4.0 STARS)


This one is a proper Hoosier track, ditching the synths – this is the quirky pop with the bouncy bassline and jagged guitar stabs that can be heard on the début. Sounding dangerously familiar with my something from my Dad’s record collection, it speeds through a crescendo-ing bridge, building plenty of anticipation for a very glam-pop chorus: falsetto, piano, it’s all there.


It’s basically a very Queen-esque track with The Hoosiers’ stamp all over it. The song only really… REALLY takes off after the chorus but it certainly provides a huge bubble-gum-on-the-brain punch, thanks to Irwin squealing excitedly “So many monsters in you!” over and over again. On top of that, it has a very enjoyable instrumental section towards the end. Nicely wrapped up.



07. ‘Devil’s In The Detail’ (3.0 STARS)


Another of the album’s slower moments, a hypnotic, chiming piano/glockenspiel/prepared piano leads into… Al!? Al takes on lead vocals in this song, relegating Irwin to backing vocals. The song is definitely one of the weaker album songs, with little going for it in terms of musical hooks. But that’s aside, it’s a beautifully crafted song with Al’s voice being drowned out at times the reflects the hypnotic sound of the song.


The lyrics are very good, and very poetic until the chorus which has the criminal addition of “Oh my god”, which should actually only annoy musical snobs. Unfortunately, charming as it is, very little happens, it’s definitely the track you’d listen to if you wanted to calm down for, in all it’s reserved glory, it’s actually quite soothing thanks to the innocence conveyed in Al’s falsetto.



TRACK OF THE ALBUM!


08. ‘Glorious’ (5.0 STARS)


What a song to put after the sedate ‘Devil’s In The Detail’! Don’t be falling asleep around the end of track 7 or Irwin’s huge vocals will be waking you up round about a second into track 8! This song is faultless, it’s hugely infectious, has a brilliant pop chorus, and some seriously bouncy synths.


It’s relentlessly entertaining. From the witty lyrics like “Take that sharp, sharp tongue of yours/And cut me in two/I’ll attack from both sides”, to the modulation in key, adding tonnes of drama and finally reaching that point where you begin to wonder why Irwin hasn’t exploded with hyperactivity, his voice literally pushed to it’s limits. I love the campness of the track, and how confident everything is, and the vocal layering on the word “Glorious!” lifts the whole song up to the critical level that makes this song tower above the rest of the album; if I could give six stars, I think this may’ve been the first track to ever get it.



09. ‘Made To Measure’ (4.5 STARS)


Another relentless, stomping song with plenty of influences from ‘The Trick To Life’, it has angry guitars, as well as spiralling synths and… a saxophone! I’m running out of adjectives to describe this song – an eclectic pop chorus and lots of cascading “Oooh”s to pile on the catchiness. I don’t know how they do it, but the Hoosiers have another near-perfect pop record in the form of ‘Made To Measure’. The bridge is particularly amazing.


I suppose you’re wondering why I didn’t give this 5 stars nor track of the album? Well, if the song ended around 3:45 it would get both those honours, but it goes onto 4:22 which annoyingly is just an improvised saxophone and some plucky percussion which sort of dims the songs brightness. But fear not! If this is a single that’ll definitely be edited out for airplay! All are happy.



10. ‘Giddy Up’ (5.0 STARS)


More synths for the introduction, this time sounding like a proper Erasure/Pet Shop Boys production, with zipping synths and rubbery basslines. Then Irwin’s energetic, flamboyantly sung verses join proceedings and gives the whole thing a modern, Hoosiers vibe (I’m really struggling to define how brilliant these songs are now).


The pop is typical Hoosiery, but the lyrics make hardly any sense this time… but who cares!? Things are moving way too fast to complain about the sensibility of pop lyrics! “Baby won’t you giddy up?” is pop lyrical madness at it’s best. Scaling synths and streaming sound effects make this an obvious choice for single release, because it’ll only add yet another monumental pop chorus to The Hoosiers’ already very impressive back catalogue.



SPECIAL MENTION


11. ‘Sarajevo’ (5.0 STARS)


It must be very weird seeing such consistently highly rated songs through an entire album, considering I’m quite picky. But this is one of those songs that is absolutely amazing in all aspect of the word and meaning – the kind of song that makes you feel like you want to fall in love with it and it’s bassline every time you think about it; it’s the kind of song that you think about before any other; it’s the one you remember the name of; it’s the one that will most likely never be released because it’s not commercial enough to compete with shit like Taio Cruz.


It’s the equivalent of ‘Invisible Light’ by the Scissor Sisters, a song with such flawless production and such sophistication, it makes the artists in the singles chart look like a bunch of incompetent knob-ends. It’s a dramatic build-up from the very start, following a mournful chord progression and a buzzing bassline á la MGMT’s ‘Kids’, I have very little energy left in me to rave about this song. It’s that amazing.



12. ‘Little Brutes’ (2.5 STARS)


A calming, relaxing, and surprisingly haunting album closer to finish off what is most definitely the best pop album of the year, ‘Little Brutes’ does something that’s very new to The Hoosiers; it sounds like a gospel chant of mournful “Uhh”s, before crescendo-ing into a build-up that gives the impression something big is going to happen, but it never arrives. Not particularly catchy, it relies on the vocal ‘riff’ to carry it, because you don’t really pay attention to much else: it’s musically sparse, uncatchy and would only ever work on as an album track.


But the one thing it does do well, it take you down from the high of the outrageously entertaining previous three tracks, leaving you gently placed back on the ground, rather than dumped off the side as extra baggage.



Post Mortem


It’s a pop masterpiece, I was dubious at first, seeing that The Hoosiers were intentionally going electropop-y; because it felt like they’d done it to just stay relevant, but the transition has paid off tremendously.


Mixing huge, anthemic productions like ‘Bumpy Ride’ and ‘Glorious’ with slower numbers like ‘Who Said Anything (About Falling In Love)’ would be, to any other manufactured artist who gets people to write songs for them, perilously hard to come across as convincing and flowing, but, thanks to The Hoosiers’ schtick and fantastic way with a tune, they’ve managed to stamp their trademark on all the upbeat numbers, as well as the slower ones, and the whole thing meshes together as naturally as a Werther’s Original to a pair of dentures.



Album Rating: 9.6/10


Download These: ‘Bumpy Ride’, ‘Who Said Anything (About Falling In Love)’, ‘Unlikely Hero’, ‘Glorious’, ‘Made To Measure’, ‘Giddy Up’, ‘Sarajevo’.

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