Review of Blind by Hurts
It’s a true rags-to-riches story. When singer Theo Hutchcraft and synthesist Adam Anderson met in Manchester, England in 2009, they were on the dole. With unemployment leaving plenty of time for music, the lads formed synthpop/ electro-pop duo Hurts and released their debut album, ‘Happiness’, in 2010. Produced by Jonas Quant, the album sold over two million copies, made the top ten in twelve European countries and, among a slew of award nominations and wins in 2010 and 2011, Hurts was named Best Band at the 2011 Virgin Media Music Awards (the UK’s annual music awards).
So, the pressure was on for their follow up album, ‘Exile’, released early last month, and without the benefit of unemployment and associated hard knocks as song-writing inspiration. Fortunately, their second offering doesn’t disappoint, with The Daily Mail reporting the album has “already been hailed a masterpiece by the critics and was only kept off the top of the album charts by David Bowie’s ‘The Next Day’.” (Coming second to Bowie? Reason enough for a listen!) By the numbers, ‘Exile’ has already peaked in the top 10 in 30 countries. And if you couldn’t tell from the album titles, Hutchcraft confirms ‘Exile’ “is darker, more dramatic and more intense” than ‘Happiness’.
‘Blind’ is the duo’s second single from ‘Exile’, set for release on May 12. It starts with an almost choir-like “Oh-Wey-Oh” that’s repeated at various points throughout; I can imagine crowds joining in during live performances. The pain- filled lyrics tell the story of a separated couple. They’re provocative and quite depressing, and the masochistic theme of the anthem-like chorus in particular – “Cut out my eyes/And leave me blind” – certainly fits Hutchcraft’s description. But the pace and Anderson’s synth skills keep ‘Blind’ from becoming too ‘I’m- going-through-a-traumatic-break-up-and-I-need-an-appropriate-song-to-cry-to’, à la James Morrison’s bleak ‘I won’t let you go’.
‘Blind’s’ accompanying video concept was fantastic. Of course, the music should be able to stand alone, and ‘Blind’ does. But I applaud the duo and director Nez Khammal (Kid Cudi, M.I.A. and Kano) for putting some thought into it. It reminded me of Nickelback’s ‘Savin’ Me’ video, a similarly good song in itself plus a thought-provoking comment on human nature.
‘Blind’ is a study in storytelling; you have to keep watching the almost four and a half minute video to find out what happens to the couple. Easy options include a) Hutchcraft and Anderson standing atop a windy cliff, with waves crashing during the chorus and sweeping panoramas (exemplified in ‘Galaxy’ by Jessica Mauboy feat. Stan Walker http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGwm5vIYKDY), and b) the guys in a gloomy, Twilight-styled room-in-an- abandoned-house setting, like Death Cab for Cutie’s ‘Meet Me On The Equinox’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjIErrcr75A). Instead (thank goodness), we’re taken on a dramatic Romeo-and-Juliet-meets-Bonnie-and-Clyde journey, a clever blend of classical mythology’s Cupid with modern desire, obsession, and addiction. It makes the song sound even better, and I’m keen to see what Hurts do next.
‘Exile’ and ‘Blind’ are available now on iTunes and the band’s website, informationhurts.com.
Review by Emma Groves