We all know the difficulty when it comes down to release a second record. Especially when your debut was as great as the one Hurts has produced with “Happiness” in 2010. They simply delivered to the point. A perfect mixture of playful simple pop-synths and melancholy. And now roundabout two and a half years later there it is “Exile”.
You immediately notice: Less synthesizers more guitars or at least much more present guitars .The name-giving opening track does what it should, it builds up tension, well at least a little bit, its 4 minutes running time doesn’t give you much alternation and a climax is missing completely. “Miracle” goes in the same direction, but has at least a catchy chorus. “Sandman” then is a little bit different, starts with a pounding rhythm as a fundament, it seems likable, but loses to much energy in the chorus and there is also the thing with the children choir – I don’t like it. My highlight is definitely “Blind”, it just does everything right. Nice lyrics, good mood, the melancholy, simply Hurts. “Only You” then is just a clone of wonderful life – you already heard it – from Hurts themselves – but better, wouldn’t have been necessary imo. “The Road” didn’t give me much at all. “Cupid” starts with a promising slide-guitar and is actually pretty nice to listen to. A good track with a predictable structure, but compared to most of the other songs, with some energy in it. The spirit is kept up with “Mercy” – nice as well. “The Crow” loses the tempo a bit too much, but therefore seems more poetic, it brings you wide spaces through piano, guitar, plucked strings, and so on. “Somebody to die for” then marks my last highlight, a nice track witch just seems complete and well produced, it could have been an additional track on Happiness. “Rope” features some very dance-pop/house-type synths – doesn’t seem to fit Hurts if you ask me. The final track “Help” somehow feels it like could come right out of a musical-production with the string-arrangements, the choir (thank god no children) and the lyrical theme.
And the comparison to a musical-production somehow sums the record up quite well. It is still Hurts, but in a different way, and that is not particularly good. Much of it just feels forced, a bit over the top. A few times I just thought, a little bit less would have done it as well, it doesn’t need to be that bombastic. It just doesn’t feel that authentic. More guitars are always welcome by me, if they add something to the song, which they just do partially. Besides my mentioned favorites, the album is nice to listen to, even more when you are in the right mood or mind-set, but just doesn’t get you like the majority of tracks on “Happiness” did. As so many bands and artists before them, Hurts just fulfilled the prophecy of an average second record. Chapter closed, now they can focus on a good third one again.