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Hurts

The fixation these days to resurrect the new wave synth-pop 80s – in HURTS’ case: DEPECHE MODE, A-HA, PET SHOP BOYS, JOHNNY HATES JAZZ, A Fork Of Shegals, et al – has baffled the likes of anyone who was around at the time and can recall how the scene was lambasted by the majority of alt-rock-loving 20-somethings. So one’s got to tip one’s hat to the bravado of HURTS, a duo from Manchester (singer Theo Hutchcraft and keyboard player Adam Anderson), who’ve probably ignored doubters around them, to become one of England’s top purveyors of the retro Euro-pop sound. And they’re nice, fun guys as they proved on a recent promo Jonathan Ross Show interview.
Their history can be traced back several years when in 2005, both Theo and Adam were part of Bureau, a 5-piece combo also consisting of musicians Scott Forster, Flick Ward and Jamie Alsop; sadly, there was little interest in the band’s one-and-only platter, `After Midnight’. Another hi-NRG attempt to breakthrough as Daggers (without Ward and Alsop) was unceremoniously dismissed in 2007. The single cut in question, `Money’ (b/w `Magazine’), was duly showcased in front of A&R people in London, although by all accounts, the mini-gig was a bit of a damp squib. Licking their wounds, both Theo and Adam went underground for a while, resurfacing in 2009 with the melodramatic HURTS.
Augmented by Jonas Quant, a Swedish producer who could work with the duo via the internet, HURTS recorded a handful of songs, the first of which, `Wonderful Life’, popped up early the following year on the Major/RCA-backed imprint. Not an immediate hit the first time around (that privilege would go to the A-HA-like `Better Than Love’), the brooding but heartfelt track raced up the charts to coincide with the release of HURTS’ debut, HAPPINESS (2010) {*8}. Top 5 all around Europe but somehow excluded from a Stateside release, the set ran through a gamut of glossy groups of the 80s to come up trumps in further classy tracks, `Sunday’, `Silver Lining’, `Stay’, `Devotion’ (highlighting a duet with KYLIE) and the emotional 7-minute closer, `The Water’; they’ve since recorded the Aussie icon’s `Confide In Me’ for a B-side.
Sharing production credits with Quant and Dan Grech-Marguerat this time around, sophomore album EXILE (2013) {*7} had no problems reaching the Top 10. A little darker and boldly gothic around the edges (think DEPECHE MODE a la 90s), the chant-y bombast of attendant download single, `Miracle’, or the R&B-flavoured `Sandman’, worked and weaved their magic at every level. The effectiveness and range of Theo’s vocals come into their own on `The Road’, while songs such as `Blind’ (and for that matter, the previous set’s `Silver Living’) might be better served by the likes of X-Factor winner, Leona Lewis. You heard it here first.
Attempting to fill the void left by The KILLERS and other new wave revivalists on their break, the HURTS duo extended their album CV to three with SURRENDER (2015) {*6}. A slight drop in sales (peaking only at No.12) sent out warning signals, but in formulaic, pain-free gospel-dance fodder `Why’ (a modern-day HOWARD JONES/BRONSKI BEAT, anyone?), `Lights’, `Wish’ and `Some Kind Of Heaven’, their flamboyancy was still afloat.
© MC Strong/MCS May2013-Nov2015

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