Thursday, October 14, 2010

Album Review: The Hours: It's Not How You Start It's How You Finish

"Everybody gets knocked down/How quick are you gonna get up," Hours' vocalist Antony Genn asks in "Ali In The Jungle." In actuality it's not a question so much as a command. Genn and bandmate Martin Slattery's debut release It's Not How You Start, It's How You Finish, contains many more of these self-empowerment platitudes.

"When you're goin'  through hell/You gotta keep going," Genn urges in "These Days," another take-life-by-the-balls anthem. "I need something to believe in/Before I lose my mind," he sings with an undercurrent of urgency. And if there is one recurring lyrical theme on It's Not How You Start, it's that there's little time to waste. For The Hours, the world is going to hell in a hand basket, and its time for humanity to rise up and save both it and ourselves. Apathy is a dirty word. As Genn sings in "Big Black Hole," "It's time to cut the umbilical cord/And stand up on your own."

Fortunately the band provide a realistic flip side to all this idealistic musing, acknowledging life's unpredictability and the fact that humans are often times all too well, human. "It's no use/ You can't buy a new life off the shelf/It won't set you free," Genn sings in "Back When You Were Good," ruefully assessing a former friend's deception and betrayal. Fleeting relationships ("Never See You Again,"), death ("I Miss You"),  broken dreams and bitterness ("Icarus") are all par for the course as well.

The lyrics can sometimes dip into the cliche` (You're like a vampire/You suck everyone's blood"), and overly simplistic (compared to the clever put downs of "Narcissus Road," "Come On" sounds the by-the-numbers). However Genn never betrays an ounce of insincerity in his vocal delivery, which goes a long way.

Musically It's Not How You Start is full of  pounding piano chords, big choruses, layered guitars and romantic strings. Clearly the duo work are working in the same sound scape as fellow Brit pop luminaries Coldplay and Keane. However they do put a twist on the formula on standout tracks such as "Narcissus Road," which builds from a twinkling piano riff into a pummeling soundwall. "Ali In The Jungle," with its clicking snares, pounding bass, drum rolls and dramatic, stun-gun blasts of guitar, is another highlight. The larger-than-life orchestral pop of "Back When You Were Good," is also a bright spot.

It's Not How You Start, It's How You Finish is a solid album packed with plenty of stadium-ready, get-your-lighters-out songs. A great debut from a group that's likely to be pretty huge soon.


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