Album Reviews

The Hours – Narcissus Road

(Polydor) UK release date: 5 February 2007

It can be a bit of a Sword of Damocles, being hotly tipped by arty rock souls like Jarvis Cocker. The buzz created when you release your debut album after two years is great, and comparisons with Pulp help smooth over the diverse musical influences from track to track.

But with Damien Hirst and Jason Beard working on your packaging design (much shiny silver with scratches, clocks and skulls), isn’t there a danger you won’t turn out to be arty enough in the end?

The Hours are duo Ant Genn and Martin Slattery, and a lot of twiddlely bits from extra musicians – they do so like to dress up their likeable pop with strings and mandolins and goodness knows what when they feel the song needs some extra atmosphere. As debut albums go Narcissus Road starts off infectiously and with great promise. The first four tracks (including the two singles, the rallying cry of Ali In The Jungle and the orchestral Back When You Were Good) are all corkers and leave you panting for more. Rarely has gratuitous swearing and the art of subverting cliches sounded sharper.

Clappy title track Narcissus Road has an ’80s white boy soul vibe, along with whispered observations that are reminiscent of Mr Cocker�s most popular output while Love You More is another ‘list’ song like Ali In The Jungle in which the narrator declares he loves someone more than Caravaggio and Tony Soprano, but most importantly more than his record collection, in a jerky and thrusting post-punk style reminiscent of the current crop of Wire-influenced bands.

Things begin to slide a little with the lyrically predictable Icarus, despite its sweet and wandering piano refrain; it’s the perfect backing music for one of the more contemplative bits of an American comedy drama like Scrubs, but not quite mushy enough for Grey�s Anatomy. Simple piano ballad I Miss You probably is though. It all goes a bit piano-tastic in the middle, which shows off the vocals, but beings to feel a bit samey by Dive In. The sharp guitar and sparse drumming on I Need To Know takes us back to Wire and a cornucopia of 80s guitar band influences and brightens things up for a while, but ultimately the second half of the album is nowhere near as exciting as the first.

It feels a little padded but as debuts go it’s far better than we have any right to expect. Just remember, it’s not art, it’s pop.

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More on The Hours
The Hours – See The Light
The Hours – Narcissus Road