Single Review: Hurts - 'All I Want For Christmas Is New Year's Day'
“It’s subjected to Hurts’ reliably gloomy outlook and careless trade of hooks and relevance for grandiloquence and affectation”
Digital Release: December 11, 2011
Physical Release: N/A
With very little to set them apart from the plethora of other supposedly ‘influence-less’ bands popping up out of the wood-work with angular faces and the uneasy appearances of gaunt white British rich-kids, Hurts are an odd pair. They’ve got looks more akin to suave Italian models than anaemic nerds, and the only thing that you can really use in their favour with regards to their musical ‘originality’ are things that make the whole concept of “Hurts” hard to swallow and a far easier option to simply spit out. They seem to be best-defined by what would make any other artist seem completely pretentious - the meek gazing into the middle-distance; the existential ponderings of men who haven’t lived full lives yet; the monolithic synths and space-filling noise, etc., etc. It's all very Ultravox circa. ‘Vienna’. And what’s worse is they kind of disregard that that era of music ever really happened; but they certainly don’t have the innovation to command such a music revolution by themselves, so it stands to reason that they only exist because of those half-remembered 80s bands, despite the fact they claim to have invented their own genre: disco lento.
And all while they shag their way across Europe, masquerading behind enough pomp and circumstance to belittle all the members of Queen, Muse and Glasvegas collectively, I’ve always had the distinct impression Hurts put more thought into their back-story and image than they do their music, which really does challenge many unwritten laws of music propriety. They hire their own opera singer for live shows, perform those live shows on epic, Brechtian stages and use obscure literary references to mask their inability to write their own engaging lyrics. But no-one’s on the prowl to call them out for sampling timeless literature, as they are undoubtedly masters of story-telling; having an almost pre-prepared script to follow whenever The Guardian needs to fill a few column inches; it shows in their music: it’s as if they’ve scrutinised Tears For Fears, Depechemode, Ultravox and even Blancmange and regurgitated it all off by heart. You can almost imagine them sitting in their monochrome little studio, besuited and stone-faced, a stylish swirl of cigarette smoke floating upwards, with them both staring at a wall and muttering under their breath as they try to remember what to say, when and how.
Now, if only Hurts put more thought and less rehearsal into their own music production, their efforts would most likely end up less like the turgid ‘All I Want For Christmas Is New Year’s Day’ and more like a mix of their ill-fated Daggers project and the band they are now (decide for yourself whether or not you think that's a good thing) -somewhere in a sort of compromise that means listening to them doesn’t require the heaviest of hearts, or for you to be at your last few minutes before committing suicide; or for you to be a jaunty, sharp-suited, combed-over hipster trying to revive the post-punk synth-tronica of the early 80s (so, Theo Hutchcraft, then): quite possibly the only type of person capable of withstanding an album's worth of deeply - and unnecessarily - depressing “disco lento”.
And just when you thought it was safe to crack a smile for a few seconds, ‘All I Want For Christmas Is New Year’s Day’, Hurts’ take on a heartfelt Christmas song, is now getting it’s second release (the first being last Christmas, but due to it being a free download, it was ineligible to chart). The song may bare a glimmer of hope somewhere... somewhere, buried under the impenetrable layers of synthesiser and chiming bells - it is Christmas after all - but it’s subjected to Hurts’ reliably gloomy outlook and careless trade of hooks and relevance for grandiloquence and affectation, meaning that the song suffers from a blandness not dissimilar to looking up at a grey skyline filled with 100-story concrete behemoths: artificial, ostentatious, and blocking out everything but their own size.
Hurts do a good impression of a band that are cool, detached and fabulous, but the reality of their music paints a far less flattering picture. ‘All I Want For Christmas Is New Year’s Day’ is a bit of a hopeless cause - it certainly won’t put a smile on your face this Christmas. Perhaps that’s the beauty of it - that it comments on the less enjoyable aspects of the ‘most wonderful time of year’ - the rush for late night shopping, the cooking of the meal, the cold weather, the forced smiles of surprise and thanks when you open a gift you don’t want... but if that’s the case, then Hurts are also very good at masking the depth to their songs, leaving behind a hungry pot-hole of wasted opportunity.