Review of The Hours album See The Light.
The Hours debut, 2007's Narcissus Road, was one of those rare things in contemporary music,
a triumph for integrity. Mixing anger and intellect in equal parts, the words and songs were shot through with a polemical intensity, fuelled by contempt for the status quo and all our parts in it. Protagonists Antony Genn and Martin Slattery proved that sounding epic didn't mean sounding like Coldplay.
Industry veterans Genn (Whose pre-Hours CV includes working with Joe Strummer, Pulp and UNKLE) and Slattery (keyboards for Black Grape) have now recruited a band, but more importantly their manifesto has been retuned; in 2009 they're now a group that '...Mean(s) what we say. Every note. Every beat. Every syllable'.
And don't you jus still believe them too. Roping in producer Flood - whose previous experience includes taking The Killers to the grandiose Sam's Town - along with knob twiddler Cenzo Townsend has added a degree of polish, but Genn and co. are still about to conform-to-deform
their way onto a thousand coffee tables.
Genn obviously believes that if the message is important enough - the world is f*cked unless we as a species start working together - then the means of transmission should be as populist as is necessary. He duly spends opener Big Black Hole lamenting the lack of 'Real men' and threatening to tell us 'Something we might not want to hear' whilst an Athlete-esque piano twinkles incongruously - although a little annoyingly his actual sooth is never sayed.
It's a propaganda master plan which comes to fruition on the following These Days, a record so pop it might as well come with a free copy of TV Quick. With a background of chirping synths and kitchen sink strings, the lyrics optimistically tell us that life's not a rehearsal, and the undeniable simplicity of it all helps produce the best alt.stadium song that's not on a Doves album this year.
If this all sounds a bit Chris Martin on a bad day, perhaps you're right. But in a world where the Jonas Brothers sell five million albums a year, I'll take The Hours silk purses anyday. Wall of Sound may well sound like Oasis minus the self aggrandisement and Love is an Action like a not rubbish Keane, but at least See The Light rarely patronises. Only once, on Car Crash does it recall Narcissus Road's introverted pessimism.
Here are the facts then. Too much attention is paid to inconsequential snippets like the fact that Damien Hirst designed See The Lights' art work. What really matters is that Genn and Slattery are doing what they do for art not money, but understand you probably don't care about art. They know that the Bigger the truth, the fewer people will believe it. Noble or naive, they'll get you either way.