Hurts – Surrender Review

The Manchester synth-pop duo return with their first new material since their second album Exile in 2013 which was an album that was barely an improvement from their first, but a welcome change of tone with a darker and more atmospheric feel. A more significant shift is always required from a third attempt however and they really need to build up to something more significant that they promised with their debut back in 2010.

With ‘Some Kind of Heaven’ they’ve retained and delivered a more clearer and catchy sound whilst varying between this and the darker verses too. This works pretty well in that sense and pushes on the pop sensibility that was their making, even if at times it’s a little familiar. It remains an elegant and melodic piece of modern pop music that’s as stylish as their clothes, but only offers up subtle alterations on their existing sound. ‘Rolling Stone’ shows a bold and direct version of Hurts that the pop duo have managed to pull off flashes of this in the past, but with this track they have advanced these theatrical pop statements encasing a dark and detailed lyrical narrative. To do this they’ve sacrificed none of their sleek delivery, but have added smoother progressions and transitions via trembling string sections and choir-like backing vocals. These verse styles set up the hit of the chorus with leader single Theo Hutchcraft switching from an easy, intimate vocal to a more powerful and far reaching style of the chorus with heavy hitting beats and samples with a shredding guitar imitation cutting it’s way through it all. It makes their previous single look a little mundane in comparison. ‘Wish’ is a typical piano ballad with a set up that doesn’t suit Theo’s vocals too well and aside from that, it is a track that leaves little impression lyrically and atmospherically.

‘Lights’ sees them turn to Disco which was a turn few of us were expecting from the duo. It certainly has shades of Random Access Memories by Daft Punk, but in a more purer form of Disco with the low slung bass lines, jingling riffs and whispy electronica with handclaps and all. Theo Hutchcraft offers up a smooth and lavender-like vocal to match up with the time reversed instrumentation. It’s a pretty fun song in isolation and certainly signals a sense of real variety amongst the album, but you still get the sense that this was perhaps a little random in the grand scheme of things. ‘Slow’ shifts back to the more theatrical, electronically tinged pop that was offered up with ‘Rolling Stone’. It opens with bursts of grinding synths and snapping drum samples which allows for a subtle environment for Theo Hutchcraft’s vocals to stray in and out of audible focus and to go on to deliver a more powerful tone into the more echoed and drawn out chorus and typical pop high pitched vocals. It’s not a track of great purpose and struggles to reach a great conclusion, without being remaining intricate and detailed. It is however a well produced track, but one of the lesser singles of the album. Songs such as ‘Why’ are more akin to the sort of track we’d use for Eurovision and that speaks for itself. ‘Nothing Will Be Bigger Than Us’ is a mildly improved rendition of many a Calvin Harris track and the stale and worn through sound sort of has no setting in amongst the rest of the album. Kaleidoscope offers us a more disco variant on the previously mentioned track, but sounds lost compared to ‘Lights’ for example. Unfortunately the areas of promise in the singles is completely non-existent in the album tracks that are filled with cheap, tasteless noughties pop music. The lyrics do little to make up for it and each track leaves no trace and it’s only saved by it’s singles. It seems that they are a little lost at the moment in terms of their sound and hopefully they’ll find themselves with their next album as they have the potential for so much more.

Hurts – Surrender = 5/10

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

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