City and Colour – The Hurry and the Harm
Record Label: Dine Alone Records
Release Date: June 4th 2013
A couple of years ago, I tried my hardest to get into City and Colour, which was the side project of guitarist/vocalist Dallas Green of now-defunct post-hardcore band Alexisonfire. Green left the band in 2011 to focus more on City and Colour, which released its third record, Little Hell, later that year. That’s the record I first listened to by Green under his City and Colour moniker, and maybe it was just the fact that I was never into indie/folk music a few years ago, but this record was rather hard for me to get into. Don’t get me wrong, Little Hell is a beautiful record, but for myself, it was hard to get into, because the record seemed to drag on a bit. It was about 47 minutes or so, and most of the songs on the record had a very similar sound to them; they were chilled out, acoustic, and indie tracks. They were great, but by the end, it felt rather tiring. Nonetheless, it’s been a couple of years since Green has released any new music, let alone a new record, so fourth record The Hurry and the Harm was a very much anticipated release by fans and critics alike. Fans got a first look into the new record by Green releasing a free download of the track “Of Space and Time.” It was a rough demo, I believe, but it was a nice track overall. The track is much more polished on the actual record, but it was a nice treat for fans. A few weeks later, Green released the song “Thirst” as a pre-order single if you pre-ordered the record on iTunes, but I downloaded the song as a single track, and really enjoyed it. It’s worth nothing early on in this review that Green enlisted the help of a full band this time around, so I was already curious at how this record was going to play out. Ultimately, it’s one of the best records I’ve heard all year, and possibly, in the past few years. Green knows what his strengths are, and that’s songwriting and lyrics. His lyrics have always been a mixed bag. In other words, they’ve always been a mix between depressing, and sort of happy. For the most part, the lyrics on The Hurry and the Harm are quite depressing, but not in a “woe is me” way. They’re depressing in a realistic sense, where he’s trying to say that life sucks, but he writes about these things to let you, the listener, know that you’re not alone, and he understands. There’s a sense of awareness to his lyrics that not many musicians or bands have been able to emulate, and that works to his advantage. The fact that he chose to use a full band on here, rather than minimal instrumentation, shows his progression and willingness to experiment a little. The end result it a brilliant record with a lot to offer.
The first two singles, which I mentioned earlier, were just a small taste of the record, and those singles are not the best songs, which are not too surprising, because not many records have that. Either way, those two songs made me very excited for this record. Sadly, I couldn’t get a copy of it in the first week of its release, because my local Best Buy was sold out. I went back a week later, and they restocked it, so I was able to get my hands on a copy, thankfully. And I must say, it was definitely worth the wait. The record starts with the title track, of all tracks. A lot of records have been doing this, but this song hits us, the listeners, with the theme of the record right off the bat. Green sings, “Why are we so worried more about the hurry and less about the harm?” That’s why Green is being so aware of his surroundings; he wants people to listen to him about “the harm,” and he wants this record to be a very intimate affair, and make people slow down and listen to what he has to say. This is a great track to start off with, and sets the record up nicely. Second track, “Harder Than Stone,” brings up something I said early on in the review about Green’s lyrics; this track is all about how life gets harder as you get older, and we all shed that innocence that we have about life, some of us much younger than others. The trend continues with the one-two punch of fourth and fifth tracks, “The Lonely Life,” and “Paradise.” The former is about Green talking about how life would be if he lost his wife, which by the title, would be quite a lonely one. He paints a bleak picture of a man who can’t live without someone. The latter, despite its cheery name, is actually about Green not being able to find paradise, and the whole song has him toying with the idea of searching for a paradise he cannot find. These two tracks are nice acoustic tracks, with the latter actually having a rather upbeat sound, despite its bleak and depressing lyrics. Green’s falsetto is absolutely to die for on this song, for the record.
If there is one snag that occurs in this record, it’s sixth track “Commentators,” specifically with its opening lyrics: “What gave you the impression / That your opinion means anything to anyone? / What gave you the right / To bear arms against me… against us? / You’re nothing but a bunch of amateur commentators / Who live your lives hiding behind a wall of insecurities.” Well, obviously, Green must have some issues with music critics. It seems as though he’s mainly speaking about internet “trolls” in this track, but I can’t help but find this song rather insulting to reviewers and critics. From what I’ve noticed in the music industry is that the only opinions people will listen to are negative ones. As a reviewer, it’s a bad idea to dislike something, because people will get upset at you for it, especially on the internet. On one hand, I can see why Green would write a song like this. It’s just, not everyone who dislikes his music is an amateur commentator, as he puts it. They’re people who just may not like folk/indie, or just his style in general. Don’t get me wrong, the song itself is upbeat and very catchy. The rest of the lyrics aren’t as bitter, but actually have Green saying that he’ll leave music when the time is right for him. He’s not trying to change music, but he’s doing something that he enjoys. This is easily one of the catchiest tracks on the record, minus a few lyrics that rub me the wrong way. Thankfully, the record gets redeemed with “Thirst,” which I mentioned in the beginning of the record. This song features a distorted guitar riff that plays throughout the song, and it has a really cool and unique sound to it. It’s not found on anywhere else throughout the record, so it’s a standout track definitely.
Later on in the record, another highlight comes in the form of tenth track “Ladies and Gentlemen.” This is a track that I love the lyrics to, because while they’re quite depressing, they describe the worst parts of love, and Green tells the listener, “good luck, ladies and gentlemen.” He’s married, so I guess he’s found love, and doesn’t need to worry about getting hurt anymore. This song seems to serve as some kind of warning, and that makes it a bit better. After the rather forgettable, but still enjoyable, “The Golden State,” closing track, “Death’s Song” is one of the strangest album closers I’ve ever heard. No, it’s not a strange song in the sense of how it sounds, but lyrically, this ends the record on a very depressing and sad no. The title doesn’t sound optimistic, but even so, it’s a very bleak ending. But here’s where Green’s realism kicks in again – This record, like life, ends with a death song. The record is over, so it’s “dead.” Of course you, the listener can “breathe life into it” by playing it again, but just like this record, life ends with a death song, and that’s the last song we’ll ever hear, so Green is merely being realistic and just telling it like it is. Ultimately, Green’s lovely falsetto, and his lyrics are the main driving forces throughout the record. The music itself is good as well, because he did enlist a full band, but even so, his signature charm has not diminished. Yeah, the song “Commentators” has some lyrics that I shake my head at, but it’s one moment in this otherwise damn near perfect record.