Album Reviews

HIM – Uneasy Listening Vol 1: Rarities

(Columbia) UK release date: 30 October 2006

HIM - Uneasy Listening Vol 1: Rarities You can just picture the scene. He-Goth meets she-Goth swaying wistfully at a gig by their favourite Love-Metallers, HIM. She wears a black rose in her hair – his shirt is open and she sees he has the number 666 tattooed on his heart – it’s love.

Soon they go everywhere together, and every evening and candlelit dinner is soundtracked by the epic (razorblade) romance of their five album-strong HIM collection. Yet whilst he loves the occasional driving Black Sabbath riff, the pounding drums, sometimes she cannot help but yearn for a softer soundtrack over which they can hear their murmured sweet nothings, perhaps some acoustic versions, less drums just for a moment, that one magic moment…

Perhaps our heroine is in Ville Valo’s thoughts, as HIM’s garrulous frontman has stated that Volume One of this two-part compilation of outtakes and alternate versions is the one for the girls – softer, mellower, more romantic – while part two (when it arrives sometime next year) will be full of the really heavy stuff (for the boys, apparently). To start with she may find what she’s looking for too. A drumless The Sacrament opens proceedings and works quite well – that piano refrain is still one of HIM’s greatest moments – and it’s followed by an acoustic Funeral of Hearts that has Valo at his most thoughtful and introspective.

Close To The Flame becomes a gentle piano ballad, followed by In Joy And Sorrow given the string-section treatment, again with some success. The candles smoulder, and our heroine’s dream evening looks like it’s finally been made possible.

But it’ll all end in tears, as an unplugged version of one of HIM’s silliest songs, It’s All Tears, proves to be so utterly daft that any kind of atmosphere collapses. On this version Valo’s absurd chorus (on which he tries to alternate between singing like Barry White and Justin Hawkins for no redeemable reason) has to be tackled live and we’re treated to a desperate attempt to switch vocal ranges at speed which flails all over the place. Not that I mind a bit of silliness, of course. It was to my disappointment that the Deliverance Version of Buried Alive by Love didn’t include a couple of duelling banjos – a thought for Volume 2 perhaps? It’s All Tears is, however, just a crap song.

Once that’s past, though, things are looking up again. Gone With The Sin has another evocative string arrangement and Salt In Our Wounds has an Andy Votel-style doom-beat accompaniment. Despite the lack of a banjo, Buried Alive By Love makes a reasonable acoustic blast and there’s even a cheesy 80s style dub mix for Lose You Tonight. For those that don’t remember such wonders, this doesn’t resemble dub any more than having a few sub-bass booms and some extra minutes of random echoey noises at the end – yet every great 80s pop band felt obliged to put one on the 12″, and HIM are therefore honouring a great lost tradition.

It’s pretty much impossible to score an album like this. It’s one for the fans, who can add at least one star to the rating above – possibly even two, if you can forgive It’s All Tears. If you’re looking to get into HIM for the first time, this isn’t the place to start though (try Dark Light or Love Metal). It’s a good value package, and should hopefully fill the void of anyone who simply can’t wait till the next real album to appear, before which you should get Part 2 of this lot. If Ville Valo is right, then our he-Goth can’t wait…

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More on HIM
HIM – Uneasy Listening Vol 1: Rarities
HIM – Dark Light
HIM’s Ville Valo: “Sad music tends to make Finnish people happy! They never want to listen to that happy-go-lucky stuff” – Q&A