HURTS are aiming to take the synthesizer duo into the 21st Century. Monochromatic like early OMD and enigmatic like classic PET SHOP BOYS, the whole myth around them has solely been based around the magnificence of the song ‘Wonderful Life’.
This epic piece of cinematic melancholy features as all good pop music should, light at the end of the tunnel. It is only one song but very few acts manage to produce a song as brilliant as this in a lifetime, let alone on their debut. But with MIRRORS knocking on the door and Nordic duos such as VILLA NAH and THE SOUND OF ARROWS looking to gatecrash the newly focussed male-fronted electro party, HURTS really need to deliver now.
Consisting of the talkative Theo Hutchcraft and the silent moody Adam Anderson, previews of further HURTS‘ songs have been few and far between with only the disappointing ballad ‘Blood Tears & Gold’ making an appearance. In the meantime, some mysteriously pretentious posts on their blog have maintained their profile.
Signed to LITLLE BOOTS / MARINA &THE DIAMONDS collaborator Biff Stannard’s new Sony imprint Major Label, HURTS debut album is due for release in August. The new single ‘Better Than Love‘ is a promising slab of HI-NRG dance. A track dating back from their former guise as DAGGERS, its ULTRAVOX styled Mittel Europa promo video does sit rather incongruously with the neo-90s boy band sound though.
Tonight at London’s Koko (formerly Steve Strange’s Camden Palace as Theo reminded everyone later), HURTS attempt to deliver their brand of NuRomo to the post Cool Britannia generation – these are the kids who have purchased ‘Ministry Of Sound : Anthems – Electronic 80s‘ in their droves and have been giving the metaphoric finger to being force-fed ‘landfill indie’ at the beginning of the noughties.
But they are also the iTunes generation who base their tastes on 30 second sound snippets. You only have to see the way songs are savagely edited on modern TV music shows and have chat dropped in to realise how much of an effect this short attention span is having.
Care has gone into the HURTS‘ live presentation with arty projections adding a film noir sophistication. Accompanied on backing vocals by what appears to be a refugee from popera band G4, they open with the gothic drama of ‘Silver Lining’. Sounding like DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Walking In My Shoes’ mashed-up with the theme from ‘The Omen’, it’s tremendous stuff!
Surprisingly, ‘Wonderful Life’ comes second and as expected takes the house down. ‘Happiness’ recalls more DM influences, this time the metallic percussion from the ‘Some Great Reward’ period. ‘Blood Tears & Gold’ actually comes across well in a live setting largely thanks to real drums, barrels of volume and the resonant tones of opera star Richard. It all combines to give this song and many others a lot more bite. On ‘Sunday’, they turn into A-HA with Adam’s hard piano motif giving a melodic sense of urgency alongside all the synths. It turns out to be one of their strongest tracks.
HURTS do appear to have attracted a passionate legion of followers, the audience of predominantly sensitive men of varying demographics loving the drama of Theo’s animated stage presence. Staring rather a lot and giving it extra intensity with many raised arm gestures, he came into his all during ‘Stay’, a slightly more boisterous cousin to ‘Blood Tears & Gold’.
The Pavarotti influenced ‘Illuminated’ takes the neo-operatic thing even further before closing with ‘Better Than Love’. Although this possesses an uptempo spark, the “turn away, turn away, close your eyes” refrain does come across more 2WO THIRD3 than Tennant and Lowe.
Everything is very polished and precise but while HURTS‘ more slower-paced numbers may sound good played loud, reservations remain and it’s these songs could potentially be their Achilles heel. The majority of the general public will not initially have the luxury of sampling them in a concert setting… will their songs make enough of an impact being heard as compressed computer files to maintain potential interest?
Whatever, tonight at Koko, HURTS showed flashes of promise and entertained. At its best, it was brilliant!
Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Richard Price
11th May 2010