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Hurtsmile - 'Hurtsmile' http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/d2/0e/be/1103_hurtsmilehurtsmile_1299973586.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     March 12, 2011    
 
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A well thought-out album that should appeal to the open minded.

Even if you're not familiar with the name, one listen to the debut album by new US band Hurtsmile shouldn't make it too difficult to guess at least one of the guys involved. Despite the wide variety of sounds and styles on offer, the vocals and songwriting of Extreme's Gary Cherone is unmistakeable and you'd also be forgiven for thinking that this was some post-grunge modern rock album that featured the rest of Extreme as well, such is the musicianship of the band. However, the guitarist peeling off the Nuno/Slash-like riffs is none other than Gary's brother, Mark, and the band is completed by bassist Joe Pessia and drummer Dana Spellman.

This is an album that will divide Extreme's fanbase as it tempers its down-tuned modern rock approach with a few Extreme-isms, albeit ones from 'III Sides…'/'Waiting For The Punchline' and with most of the pop sensibilities left out. It's also an album of two halves, the first half mostly based around sinewy riffs, big grooves and some of Gary's most attitude-filled vocals, like his John Lydon impression on 'Just War Theory'; the short, sharp, punky rocker that opens the album, the Extreme funk meets grunge of 'Stillborn' or the quirky 'III Sides'-like 'Love Thy Neighbour'. Similarly the angry riff and processed vocals of 'Tolerance Song' are at odds with the hippy-ish lyrics whilst the bass-driven (Pessia is excellent throughout) 'Set Me Free' has an almost King's X vibe to it.

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Towards the end of the album it becomes much more diverse with the simple gospel feel of the catchy acoustic ditty 'Jesus Would You Meet Me' evoking 'Hole Hearted', and the similarly light but overlong 'Beyond The Garden/Kicking Against The Goads', which actually reminds me of Ambrosia in parts. 'The Murder Of Daniel Faulkner (4699)' is also acoustic based but is marred by Charone having too much Bob Dylan in his delivery, which along with a pointless reggae version of the opening song end the album with a definite anti-climax. Ironically these last two songs are the only ones Gary has written without his brother and are probably the ones furthest away from Extreme stylistically.

Highlights for me are the technical riffs and middle-eastern melodies of 'Kaffur (Infidel)', the bass-heavy 'Slave', which has a great groove and some very 'III Sides…' like strings in the gentle mid-section, and the Beatles-y acoustic ballad 'Paint Painter', which is just a beautiful song. I imagine a lot of Exteme's fans will find Hurtsmile hard to take in, and like Cherone's previous band Tribe Of Judah it may not be what anyone expects from him, but despite some of the negativity that I'm seeing on music messageboards, this album is nowhere near as bad as some are making out and not as far away from his day job as TOJ was. It may not be perfect but it's certainly a well thought-out album that should appeal to the open minded.

Phil Ashcroft

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