Album Reviews

The Heartbreaks – Funtimes

(Nusic Sounds) UK release date: 7 May 2012

The British seaside coastal town has had a rough ride. In the infamous words of Morrissey: “this is the coastal town they forgot to knock down”. Kiss Me Quick hats, sparsely populated beaches, kids running riot around amusement arcades: there’s something impossibly British and oddly depressing about the typical British seaside town.

The Heartbreaks are here to change all that. Hailing from Morecambe, they wear their affection for their home town proudly on their sleeve – filming videos on their local beach, and professing to be experts on the seaside in most interviews, it’s clear that they think every day being like Sunday is a very good thing.

That sense of energy and optimism shines out from their music – although this is pretty generic indie rock, it’s done so well and with such verve that you can’t help but be charmed. Support slots with the likes of Hurts, Carl Barat and the blessed Moz himself have obviously built up their confidence, so much so that this debut sounds so assured it could come from a band twice their age.

What sets Funtimes apart from the works of the huge crowd of young, guitar toting men with cool haircuts is the expertly crafted songs. Just the opening 30 seconds of Liar, My Dear are enough to confirm that they’re pretty special, all jangly guitars that suddenly burst into life for the gorgeously catchy chorus. It’s a song that can shine sunshine and light into a gloomy day.

That word ‘catchy’ keeps cropping up throughout Funtimes. Delay, Delay is more infectious than a bout of swine flu, and if you’re not singing along with the chorus of Polly after one listen then there may be something inorrectly wired in your brain. They have a way with a soaring chorus, and every song here is one that you can imagine keeping you company long into the summer.

Their lyrics lie squarely in that very English tradition – Liar, My Dear namechecks Morecambe rain and Billy Liar, while Save Our Souls suggests that “we could walk in the settings of our favourite Smiths songs”. Winter Gardens is another tale of battered Northern glamour, which sees singer Matthew Whitehouse stood outside the Winter Gardens waiting for a date – it’s that same bittersweet yearning (if slightly more frantic) that Richard Hawley conjured up on Coles Corner.

The production, by Tristan Ivemy (and Edwyn Collins on one track, Remorseful) has harnessed The Heartbreaks’ live sound and replicated it perfectly in the studio. Jangly tracks like Jealous, Don’t You Know can sit side by side with more frantic material like Gorgeous and it can still sound like a coherent, properly flowing album. There’s not much change of pace, and some may find that slightly wearying over the course of a full album, each track is a sharp, short jolt of energy.

In an age where guitar music has been diluted and devalued, it’s a pleasure to hear a band breathing new life into the genre. While it may not be winning any awards for originality, there’s enough promise here to see that The Heartbreaks fall proudly into that lineage of intelligent, articulate, guitar pop.

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The Heartbreaks – Funtimes