Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Album Review: Hitchcock - Running From The Sane

I discovered this duo via One Night Only, seeing as singer Matt Terry produced a couple of their B-sides from the last album (Daydream and Hurricane). I instantly loved all three singles I could find (Never Said A Word, Smack Boom and Villain) and made me excited for a debut album... it's been a long time coming. Featuring reworks of the previously mentioned three tracks, along with eleven others, it's finally here, and even if it is just a release by a very unknown band only available on iTunes, it is definitely worth a listen.

The album opens with an odd spoken word intro by some evil-sounding man (who turns up on the final track as well) randomly talking about 'adjusting your vibe to the required level' and 'plugging yourself into the groove matrix' but then it morphs into a beastly pop song, Don't Give Up, with a massive chorus and a rhythm to make you move. If this band were better known, it would be a massive single. It's a great way to start off. The band then follow this up with Cuban Heels, which sounds far more like a closing track than one that should turn up three tracks in, but we'll let that slide. This one features another grand, if not a little repetitive, chorus which has a slightly sparkly element to it. Choruses are already clearly something that Hitchcock can do brilliantly.

We move on to Homecoming. I found a preview demo of this song ages ago, and it was very different. On first listen, this version sounds more like a remix of their own song that took a bit of getting used to, but if this is your first listen, it's got a very dubby feel to it, with little synth-y sparkles turning up in the background. And it's got a soaring chorus - I may already be starting to sound like a broken record but their choruses are just fantastic. Remedy follows up, starting out with a rapid electronic pulse that takes a while to get used to. This time, the chorus flows nicely in from the verses unlike the past few tracks when it smashed its way in and made itself known. Here it's probably for the best, as this is quite a catchy track when it comes down to it!

And now for something very familiar - Villain. It retains the synth-drum stabs that were present on the single, except designed as more of a build-up (including a police radio excerpt to kick it all off - 'subject is under the influence of narcotics'). It retains its energy from the single, which is appropriate considering the lyrics of the chorus ('roll, roll, roll with the energy') which in turn is a sing-along moment. There's also a fantastic new break section involving something which sounds like a guitar that wasn't there on the single, that improves the song even more. At over one minute longer than its single counterpart, it retains all of the good things and adds to them.

Now we come to a duo of slightly weaker tracks, unfortunately. At 14 tracks lasting just over an hour, this album is far too long, and if there are two that could go, it would be Blind Side and Ghosts. The former tries to slow down the pace rather than keep up the energy, which, in my opinion, was not the right thing to do when this album is at its best when it's energetic. As a song in itself, it's quite good, but if I was in charge of cutting this album down, it would have to go. Ghosts is a mostly instrumental piece that seems a little unnecessary. Again, it's not bad at all but sometimes the good tracks have to go to make way for great ones. It's a catchy piece of music with a powerful drumbeat and a great synth riff - it's a song I could imagine soundtracking one of those time-lapse sort of moments that you see in films or TV programme - poorly described, I know, but then again I don't do this for a living! Buy the album on iTunes and see for yourself!

But after that marginal dip, we're back with a monstrous track entitled Katie. This is a slower, darker track that slowly builds up to another masterpiece of a sing-along chorus after being underpinned by a glimmering synth background tune and a heavy bass. It's definitely one of the highlights of the album. Following that, we have the slightly odd (but still great) duo of Taking Care Of Business and the title track, Running From The Sane, which sees a bit of experimenting. The former takes a while to grow on you, but the chorus (yes, I am using that word again) packs another powerful punch when it really kicks in the second time that it appears. Afterwards, the song fully hits its stride - turning into an incredibly infectious dance-y track. The other song, Running From The Sane, opens with a bit of brass before moving back into a more laid back, atmospheric sound that comes slightly unexpectedly. Nonetheless, it's still a great track, even if it takes a while to really get to you - nothing massively jumps out even after several listens, but it's quite a good chill-out track for the most part. It sounds slightly out of place on the album again due to its lack of real energy, but this one works slightly better.

Then, finally, we get the other singles - I have no idea why they've been left until the end but oh well. They've both had a rework and been extended by about a minute each, but this time it seems a little unnecessary, it feels a little overdone but maybe it's just me being used to the originals. Nonetheless, they both remain brilliant. Never Said A Word is pure energy, a song to really make you move, and Smack Boom, although now feeling a bit overlong, retains its sing-along style and still makes you feel like clapping along or even singing along! It's incredibly catchy.

Lastly comes the closer, Hand To Hold, clocking in at over seven minutes, although it surprisingly doesn't feel that long. Starting off with a light synth and drum combination and gradually adding to it via vocals, a slightly more powerful beat and more synths, it gives way to another infectious, danceable tune designed to excite. The chorus, when it comes for the first time about two minutes in, is, as expected, epic, complete with some 'ay-oh-ay-oh's and the sing-along 'heads up, eyes to the sky, cos you make me feel aliiiiive!" It then descends into a long outro, which goes through a few sections, one with the lyrics "this is how we roll" which is probably the least interesting part of the song, but it gets good at the end again with it's "we all need a hand to hold" declaration. It all ends with the evil-sounding guy mentioned earlier speaking over the top, ending on the album's title 'we're left running from the sane'. Slightly ruins the work going into closing the song and the album, but it's not hugely annoying.

SUMMARY: This album was definitely worth the wait. It is packed full of electronic pop masterpieces with, as I'm sure you've noticed, massive choruses designed to get you going and feel like singing along. However, as I've also mentioned, the album is way, way too long - it can start to feel like a chore listening to it - Blind Side and Ghosts are the weak points in my opinion, the former ruining the flow of the album and the other one not really playing to their strengths, at least not for long as the song quickly gets a little boring and repetitive. I admit that on their own, they can stand up well for themselves, but this is the album I'm reviewing, and I feel that they've slipped past the cutting board when they shouldn't have. I also feel that the album's order isn't quite right, what with some of their greater, more energetic tracks turning up towards the end, when some maybe should have been put near the start but it's not gone horribly wrong and doesn't detract from the enjoying of the album. Although all that sounds negative, this album is genuinely great. The eleven tracks that would remain if I was let loose on cutting the album together are all huge songs that are very impressive for a band that remain complete unknowns to the general public. Try it if you like this sort of music, I'll be amazed if you don't find at least one track that gets into your head. Hitchcock really have potential to be massive, as they've already proven their skills with the music.

FAVOURITE TRACKS: Don't Give Up, Katie, Never Said A Word

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