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Ed Harcourt - The Beautiful Lie Album Cover

Ed Harcourt - The Beautiful Lie

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6.4
Ed Harcourt - The Beautiful Lie
Release Date: June 3, 2008 (USA)
Record Label: Dovecote Records
Music is like asparagus. Either you like it or you don’t. You can make yourself eat it, but you can’t make yourself like it. Music, while it seems elementary and trivial to compare to a vegetable, is like asparagus – if you really think about it. You can make yourself listen to it, but you don’t have to like it. There are times that you will end up liking music, if listened to enough, but then again you might like asparagus if soaked in butter and salt. For the most part, you either like it or don’t. In an effort to stay in this food pyramid of comparisons, I would equate my like for Ed Harcourt’s music with my like for beets and sauerkraut. It just won’t get any better after the first serving, if I even make it that far.

Ed Harcourt has always seemed adrift and aloof. When I hear his music I think of Gary Busey on Entourage, Howard Hughes’ deranged, recluse nature, or even a fantasy creature from Coheed and Cambria’s imagination. He’s just so out there, in his own weird musical world. To his credit, he has eons of potential and a certain gift that, if used correctly, would create stunning music. He’s just so set on being this loner artist type, in this realm that no one else can be a part of. It’s as if he’s trying too hard to be something rather than just letting it happen.

His latest release, The Beautiful Lie, seems to encapsulate this bizarre and peculiar character trait. In parts, it’s quite pleasant to listen to, but he drifts in and out of this fantasy world and he loses my attention along the way. The lyrics are random and, at times, a complete rambling mess. It seems more like a compilation of haphazard words where the meaning of them is lost on the listener. In parts, the musicianship stands out and is a shining light on what is certainly a dark and dramatic stage show, but those pleasant moments soon give way to wandering and wondering.

The Beautiful Lie starts with “Whirlwind in D Minor,” one of the better songs on the album. It’s quiet and soothing with a natural flow to it. “Visit From the Dead Dog” is the embodiment of how odd this album gets. It feels like what I would expect to hear if I played a Beatles album backwards. “You Only Call Me When You’re Drunk” gets whiny and nasally, but is one of the only songs where there is a clear message. “The Last Cigarette” is one my least favorite on the album. It emanates this shrill and annoying noise that sounds like something that I would hear from my beagle when she wants to go outside and pee. The album runs together except for a few songs like “Revolution in the Heart” and “I Am The Drug.” It’s odd because Harcourt’s musical ability is apparent, but the direction in which he’s taking it is questionable, at best. Where he conquers the piano and the melody, he lacks the lyrical prowess or the musical originality to power on. There about three songs that stand out while the rest sound like something you would hear in a smoke filled piano bar around the turn of the century. With it’s dark and staged theme, it seems to have its own purpose, but I’m not sure the listener will know what it is. And if they do, I’m not so sure that it would be something many people would like.

For longtime Harcourt fans, I have a feeling they will enjoy this album for everything that this artist seems to embody. For a first-time listener, I would doubt one would retreat into the vaults of Harcourt’s music looking for more. He’s definitely an acquired taste, but for me I’ll always think of beets and sauerkraut when I hear his music. That’s enough for me to avoid another helping.

Recommended if You Likeprevious Ed Harcourt; a sense of musical randomness; lyrical melancholy; a little bit of soothing piano; enjoying a brandy in a smoke filled piano bar in the early 1900’s; beets and sauerkraut

myspace.com/edwardharcourt
This review is a user submitted review from MusicTalks. You can see all of MusicTalks's submitted reviews here.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 7 of 7
05:15 AM on 12/03/08
#2
Gregory Robson
Under Rug Swept
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I'm really confused by this review. None of the lyrics seem to be rambling and unfocused. They make complete sense to me. I've admired Harcourt's music for a long time but never listened to it, until now. On first listen, it made a huge impression. This is an amazing disc. How can you think otherwise? Sure it doesn't exactly have any radio-ready singles, but it's beautiful wistful music. It's so minimal. Just a voice and a guitar, sometimes just strings. It's so old-school, too.

Yes, it does sound like a Beatles record, but it also sounds like a Burt Bacharach record, or a Randy Newman record. And for that it is just absolutely amazing. I'm so disappointed that Harcourt finally gets written up on this Web site and the review is so unsavory. I do think your first paragraph was strong, and while you do compliment the music at times, I think perhaps you're a little too impatient. Yes this chamber-esque piano bar music, but what's wrong with that? There's armloads of potential in piano bar music. Far more so than say pop-punk or half the bands on here. Few artists write lyrics as in-depth and narrative as the ones on this album. This is a gorgeous record and a definite lock on my Top 10 Albums of the Year.

In the end, people are left to think what they want, and I don't discredit your opinion, I'm just having a hard time sitting with it.
01:17 PM on 12/03/08
#3
MusicTalks
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I'm really confused by this review. None of the lyrics seem to be rambling and unfocused. They make complete sense to me. I've admired Harcourt's music for a long time but never listened to it, until now. On first listen, it made a huge impression. This is an amazing disc. How can you think otherwise? Sure it doesn't exactly have any radio-ready singles, but it's beautiful wistful music. It's so minimal. Just a voice and a guitar, sometimes just strings. It's so old-school, too.

Yes, it does sound like a Beatles record, but it also sounds like a Burt Bacharach record, or a Randy Newman record. And for that it is just absolutely amazing. I'm so disappointed that Harcourt finally gets written up on this Web site and the review is so unsavory. I do think your first paragraph was strong, and while you do compliment the music at times, I think perhaps you're a little too impatient. Yes this chamber-esque piano bar music, but what's wrong with that? There's armloads of potential in piano bar music. Far more so than say pop-punk or half the bands on here. Few artists write lyrics as in-depth and narrative as the ones on this album. This is a gorgeous record and a definite lock on my Top 10 Albums of the Year.

In the end, people are left to think what they want, and I don't discredit your opinion, I'm just having a hard time sitting with it.

I guess this is where people hear different things while listening to the exact same music. To me, Harcourt is an artist that wants to be this isolated loner, but it's too forced. I've never listened to Harcourt, but I had read things and wanted to see for myself. Like I said, I agree that he's got loads of potential, but the music seems to wander on me. I couldn't get into, or if I did, the next track threw me out of it again. His gift is on the piano and I sincerely like in. In fact, I would love an instrumental album of Harcourt's piano. It was my favorite part of the record. As far as in depth lyrics, I think that people too often confuse insight and randomness. I see bands with this jumble of lyrics that don't go together and somehow they are the new musical messiah. Panic, for example, has great music but their lyrics are completely random. It's a mess of stuff written down, it rhymes and goes well with hooks. Now, I'm not saying that you are confused, in fact, it could be me that's confused about the the direction of the record. I just felt that there was nothing cohesive that made the entire album good.

As far as half the other bands on this site, I can't speak for them or the reviews they get. If you see my range of reviews, you'll see that I have tried to mix in several different genres. That is part of the reason that I chose to review Ed Harcourt, for AP.net. They had a selection listed for people that wanted to review albums and instead of finding the next bubble-gum pop/punk band, I tried to expand the genres on here.

In the end, people will differ in opinion. That's the beauty of music. With all this said, I appreciate your feedback. It's always something to talk about.
01:47 PM on 12/04/08
#4
Finch076
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Ya'll should check out Jonna Lee....Ed Harcourt recently sang in her song "and your love"....it's good...and that's how i came across Harcourt.

Jonna Lee is soooo good, anyway...so you might as well check her out.
02:09 PM on 12/04/08
#5
Remnants
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Shit review.
02:54 PM on 12/08/08
#6
MusicTalks
@JasDunham
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Ya'll should check out Jonna Lee....Ed Harcourt recently sang in her song "and your love"....it's good...and that's how i came across Harcourt.

Jonna Lee is soooo good, anyway...so you might as well check her out.

Will do, thanks.
02:54 PM on 12/08/08
#7
MusicTalks
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Amazing!

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