As some of you may already know, a couple of The Recommender’s writers are involved in promoting new music, having gained worked at two of Brighton’s best-known clubs, Audio and more recently Digital. These clubs vary in size, so at Audio, which is still proudly the home of the regular Recommender showcases you are likely to see fresher talent trying to fill it’s main room. At Digital, which has been one of the UK’s best clubs for many years, there’s a step up in the size of bands, in order to pack the larger main room.
Being involved at both venues we are sometimes able to see first hand the rapid rise of a new band as they appear at Audio one month, only to return to Brighton a matter of weeks later to fill the larger Digital. It’s usually following a charting hit, some Radio One coverage, a handful of NME articles and a bit of major blog hype – you know the typical swingometer factors.
Why are we telling you this? Well, we suggest that Polarsets, a trio from the North East, are showing the kind of key signals that tell us we will be seeing their Audio-Digital transition happen pretty quickly. The reason to back up this prediction is that they bring to the table all the right ingredients to lure that swingometer.
They make the kind of joyous, cowbell indie pop that’s not been this complete since The Sunshine Underground or even the Klaxons, although this is less experimental than the latter and more pop than the former, making them so perfectly radio friendly Zane Lowe may as well sign them himself.
Their latest single, ‘Morning‘, follows the synths throughout which play a set of bouncing trance chords, as guitars bubble around and upbeat woodblocks twinkle over it’s pounding drum.
‘Just Don’t Open Your Eyes Yet‘ bangs and crashes with energy and holds a wonderful chorus that’s guaranteed to get the crowd frothing at the mouth, but it’s another track, ‘Bonfires‘, that shows us they have more tricks up their sleeves. On it they’re found following that same consistent path, with more dance themes over some beautiful pop, but this time it begins with a more mature and sparse soundscape, allowing Rob Howe’s vocals to shine as they hit such heights they turn to ice. The song climaxes wonderfully in a powerful, electronic storm.
However, the best and most obvious hit single of the lot has to be their first release, ‘Leave Argentina‘. It’s got more cowbell than Gene Frenkle could handle and the synths are turned up to eleven, in a balearic burst that Faithless would be proud of. Add in a shout-it-out chorus and you get the big tune that all the fans will be waiting for during the show and the payoff won’t disappoint with this born set-closer. We wonder how soon we can witness that very moment at Digital. (MB)
We aren’t a particularly negative music blog, always trying to base our selections on artists we actually like. The main reason for this is that it’s enough effort to maintain a blog – sourcing good music, researching it and then putting the post/editorial together – so why would we bother with all that for something we didn’t really enjoy.
However, we break ranks today, as there’s been a crime against music itself and we are going to enjoy tearing this band a new one…
Keen followers of this blog may recall how we’ve covered Hurts before, in a positive light, following the discovery of their exceptionally decent song, ‘Wonderful Life‘, which played on a low-key, cheaply made, but utterly endearing video on their otherwise bare Myspace. It felt like a modern pop classic, reminiscent of Ultravox at their 80s best. We duly approached the band asking if we could have an mp3 of the song in order for us to give them some useful coverage on The Recommender’s pages and we got the following snappy response from their singer Theo Hutchcraft, “We do not think it fair that you blackmail artists to obtain music in exchange for editorial…“. Wow! That’s one way to look at it Theo.
We mustn’t forget that this was a group that had already endured two failed attempts at being a band, as Daggers and Bureau, so with this new outfit they were clearly aiming for the top with their third shot. They wanted to run things tightly this time around, with a well worked out design of their image and a selection of songs that had a broader chart appeal than their previous etchings. Mr Cowell would be proud and certainly no pesky bloggers were going to be giving it away, as this time they were hunting out a major signing, so they would be doing it without us.
In all fairness, Theo later apologised to us, suggesting that it was the demands laid upon them by a major label that was silently hovering in the background, so his hands were tied. Still, choosing to annoy a batch of well-networked music critics wasn’t the best way to start. Thankfully every other band we’ve ever dealt with, signed or unsigned, are more into building bridges than knocking them down and trying to swim across, so it wasn’t a new trend.
Hurts music initially showed a fantastic amount of strength in depth, with pop songs that seemed timeless and powerful, emotional and heartfelt, but things began to unravel around the time of their debut album. There was clearly a fair bit of ‘filler’ on it, rumours that songs had been penned by the reality TV show winner of Fame Academy, David Sneddon, as well as what seems like an invented backstory involving a questionable Wikipedia page about a early 90s genre, disco lento. Weird, but sadly lacking in wonderful.
Their strangeness continued into their live sets. We first saw them play live at Brighton’s Great Escape, with a show that had so many minute details covered you would think they had the whole world in attendance – rather than the 3/4 full venue that was nearer the truth. Theo holds a comb in his hand throughout, but never uses it – he didn’t need to with hair so immaculately prepared it looked plastic. A slightly uncomfortable and out of place opera singer stood at the back for the whole performance, occasionally chipping in and giving classical music an ‘up yours’ in the process.
The next time we saw them was in Oxford as part of the NME radar tour, so finally things seemed to be looking better for them – we can’t quite imagine Daggers/Bureau earning that sort of opportunity. However, as part of the deal they seemed to have negotiated a headline slot, as well as a tour bus for the jaunt around the UK, having only previously played a handful of gigs! We enjoyed the first two bands, but watched the venue empty before Hurts came on and played to about 15 people. Bless them, Theo still held that comb like his life depended on it, as he did his Blue-Steel-stare into the (very empty) middle distance.
So today we bring you the latest twist in their fumbling grope of the industry. Ironically it was only yesterday that we were listening to the remix (listed immediately below this paragraph) of a tune that, before today, had ranked as their biggest crime against humanity, the very East-17-sounding ‘Stay‘, remixed by Millions Like Us. It had been put through such a re-invention that it actually allowed us to enjoy it. Our ears didn’t even bleed or anything!
Sadly that bubble burst like an Icelandic volcano today as we stumbled upon Hurts’ latest offering. They thought it a good idea to release a Christmas song (Ed – didn’t East 17 do the same thing back in 1994?). Or perhaps their record label demanded it? Maybe David Sneddon called up and said “hey guys I’ve got another great idea“? We’re not sure, but alas, it’s cut the credibility cord as deftly as a chainsaw, so brutally atrocious are the results.
We could previously ignore their mis-guided efforts, as they sat among some strong pop tunes and in the genre of pop we can forgive a little ham and cheese, but when they hand it to us with their funeral-level of straight-faced seriousness and the resulting tune is this uncomfortably corny then they cross the line.
It ticks all the Christmas song boxes like they spent all of ten minutes creating the thing – bells ring, 1-2 beats plod along like a sled through the snow, but it’s the lyrics that made us feel like throwing up on our keyboard. Theo must be confident of outselling this year’s X-Factor winner with lines such as “Everywhere there’s joy around this festive time of year“, or the obvious, “All of the bells ringing out for Christmas“. It’s like they’ve had all sense of originality removed from their brains in a major label lobotomy. Fuck it’s bad. We even questioned if it was genuine; perhaps someone was impersonating them?
No doubt it will soundtrack a few ITV Christmas montages and be popular among those pop fans who are yet to begin puberty. For us it suggests that Hurts are either puppets secretly having their songs written by a team of Cowell-esque figures whilst trying to remain cool and serious, or they’re unashamedly happy to produce material that is so boring and so mid-market, in the wake of their previous failed careers, that they’ve lost all sense of what is actually cool and taken seriously.
You’ll be pleased to know that ‘All I Want For Christmas Is New Years Day‘ is available on iTunes on 14th December. However, all we want for Christmas is a mop and bucket so we can clean up our keyboard. (MB)