Jack Whatley talks sweetened Smiths, and the emergence of ’90s retro, in a review of ‘Funtimes’ by The Heartbreaks.
I first dismissed The Heartbreaks as a chocolate coin Smiths; ever sweet, wrapped in gold, but not the genuine article.
But then as dubstep (at least to me) becomes increasingly passé, and as people plod from club to sweaty club, travelling through trance beats and ending in a furore of rap-metal, a la Bizkit, I’m beginning to wonder: can’t we enjoy that kind of melancholy for just a little longer?
These past few years, Britain has been in one of the most crushing slumps of its recent economic history. In response, people have done what they always do in such times: try to escape.
That escape, perhaps personified by dub’s hypontising drones and by the ever-increasing, blood-pumping resurgence of house music, is the perfect tripwire, careering boys and girls towards vomit-soaked floors.
As fun as that is — and it is — there might be another option. The Heartbreaks are taking it; and gathering the masses to revel in the poetic chaos of desperation, with a cacophony of guitars and bittersweet melody-making. They’re confident, it would seem, that we can examine the situation in which we’ve found ourselves and love it for what it is, in all it’s grey glory.
Funtimes is a welcome return to lyrical content, and to the kinds of crashing strings that I’ve been sorely missing. And with track after track of floor fillers, of Britpop-inspired lyricism depicting the peculiarities of teenage Northern England, The Heartbreaks don’t disappoint.
This album is heartfelt, and emotionally charged with all a small town boy has to offer; lost love, midnight misdemeanours and bitter bottom lips. The opening track, ‘Liar My Dear’, is a drift back to the ’80s and a perfect amuse bouche for the forthcoming banquet. With its first line, we’re left in no doubt of what’s to follow:
“The rain here in Morecambe embitters me, it fucks my hair and stings my cheek.”
The swinging guitars, fading drums and jangle-pop nature of Funtimes are deep-seated in the boys hometown of Morecambe, that illustrious seaside resort where top-hatted men wooed lead-faced girls in Victorian splendour – a reference, in fact, that The Heartbreaks might be making in their choice of title; it being the name of Morecambe arcade.
The album puts us firmly inside a bleak vision of a deserted England, left dry and unassuming – with the caveat of a shiny poppiness. There are stand-out singles a-plenty, for example: with ‘Polly’ an obvious candidate, and ‘Delay Delay’ following up on the nominees list. And the band cut through that bleakness with ‘Winter Gardens’ and ‘Save our Souls’, two numbers that fulfil their teenage angst,and quench my thirst.
Funtimes is an album full to the brim with indie dance floor fillers whilst remaining distinctly subterranean. The Heartbreaks have delivered a debut album full of clinically observed songs, veracious lyrics and beckoning riffs. My only worry is that as we travel down the road, littered with the latest fashions and ’90s throwbacks, that as sweet as it maybe, this chocolate coin won’t be taken to the bank.
To be released in 2013 – the ‘fun and games’ issue.
Including: a vision of a nuclear explosion during London’s Olympics; interviews with artist Joshua Seidner, games maker James Wallis, and the anonymous author of Chameleon on a Kaleidoscope.
Plus: poetry from William Kinnear, and prints from Rap Coloring Book.