The drummer is a monster! Nicely done, rhythm master. After watching that clip, it occurred to me for the first time that there's even a bit of Mk II era Ultravox floating around in Hurts' electro elegance.
Theo and Andy channel a number of fine purveyors of electronic pop throughout the course of the 12 tracks that make up "Happiness". Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark is a on "Blood, Tears And Gold", complete with angelic vocal samples and delicate synth lines while Pet Shop Boys are the clear influence on "Sunday". However, if you close your eyes, you could be forgiven by thinking you were listening to Killers.
Theo looking very much like Gary Kemp from Spandau Ballet at the start of that video.
The remainder of "Happiness" is more subdued - achingly beautiful with wonderfully longing vocals and choruses as big as houses. First up is "Devotion" which features vocal contributions from everyone's favorite Aussie pop rocket, Kylie Minogue. It places her more firmly in the territory she first laid claim to with her Nick Cave duet, "Where The Wild Roses Grow", as opposed the frothy dance confections with which she's currently associated. Smart move. She sounds simultaneously fragile and sexy. In fact, it even has shades of "Confide In Me" which Hurts recently covered.
"Unspoken" is another gorgeous, cinematic number which falls and climbs throughout. "The Water" drifts into George Michael territory. Swimming in reverb and very little electronics, it shows off another slice of Hurts' epic manifesto. It's one of many high water marks on an accomplished debut.
But wait... There's more. "Verona" is a "hidden" track which wouldn't feel out of place on a Marc Almond album. This short, anthemic song builds from a bare arrangement into a powerhouse of martial drums, mandolins and an operatic chorus of voices. A bit OTT, but its brevity holds it back from being ridiculous. Very lovely.
Interesting to note that the title track was given away through Amazon and really showcases the . It's a booming stomper with a killer chorus which rises and falls before launching into a goosestepping tag with a stern, staccato chant of "We don't need your cheap salvation. We don't need your sympathy." Powerful stuff. Make it your mission to seek it out.
All in all, "Happiness" is quite an achievement. A debut of skyscraper proportions with a beautifully executed - and painfully long - marketing campaign. What started out as enigmatic and curious has evolved into a stylish and solidly strong clutch of songs which should find a good home in many homes. One of the best elpees of 2010.