Tag Archives: David Hurn

REVIEW – David Hurn: ‘No Love’ EP, 2002 (“a shadowed smile”)

2 Aug

David Hurn: 'No Love'

David Hurn: ‘No Love’

The stained bedsitter velvet has been slung out of the window. One of David Hurn’s hands has grabbed a palmful of chicken grease; the other’s holding that classic rock’n’roll cigarette he’s just taken a big drag on. A blue train runs through his music now, threading into the lyrics and sounds of No Love (smoke-puffs, whistles and all), carrying honky-tonk piano and a bucketing Scotty Moore guitar along with it. And David’s voice, which once murmured behind doors and into fringes, now croons with that peculiar blend of pain and relief which you hear in the voices of those who’ve cast away a beloved burden. He sounds positively frisky for someone who’s fallen off the love-boat.

But then, there’s often relief in shucking a responsibility which you knew you never had the stomach for. “A child’s morning prayer couldn’t save my soul / or deliver you the miracle that I know you’re waiting for. / Oh, where is the good in anything, / when there’s no love in your heart any more?” This is less David Hurn Unplugged than David Hurn Unshaven – as if he’s woken up to find that much in the world still sucks, but has met the day with a wry grimace and is simply getting on with it, having learned the protective value of the shrug. Even when delivering a line like “the little piece of hope that I had – well, it just turned bad, / and it’s hiding in my flesh but it’s never coming back”, his lugubrious voice has a shadowed smile to it that it’s never possessed before: even a hint of flirtation.

Despite the soakings of Americana, No Love is a change from David’s previous leanings towards the moodiness of American Music Club and Ryan Adams. As is his Elvis tribute in covering Is It So Strange – faithful to every nuance of slapback, shake’n’tremble and deep-fried ham, it’s full-fat Presley rendered with unconditional love, rather than the cartoon camp that usually strangles that Memphis hiccup. But the familiar Hurn sadcore isn’t far away: the gorgeous alternative “slow version” of No Love (drowning in Low murmur and narcotic steel guitar) could’ve sat proudly on AMC’s ‘Engine’ or ‘United Kingdom’.

David Hurn: 'No Love (slow version)'

Both Books Etc. and Ballad For A Lost Cause – the latter recorded live at Moriarty’s, with police sirens howling past and bleeding through the walls – are quiet acoustic-driven breaths fogging the cold mirror of hope, struggling with self-determination (“I don’t need to know if anything’s above me, watching me cry my tears. / Don’t need a light showing me my fears,”) and delivering harsh truths (“the lesson is hard only if you’re stupid /and didn’t know what you threw away, / or what you could have saved…”). Ballad For A Lost Cause in particular – with its Nick Drake mixture of deceptively soft textures and oblique, meditative lyrics – sees David keeping a firm grip on his lonesome songwriter laurels as he picks apart another story from a mishandled life. “Failure to the end, you didn’t know how to win favours from impossible dreams. / So you should hold something back, but you’ll never see…”

He hasn’t thrown away the key to his bedsit yet, whatever the pull of that train-whistle.

David Hurn: ‘No Love’
Fire Records, PUFF 003
CD/download EP
Released: 24th June 2002

Buy it from:
Fire Records or Burning Shed.

David Hurn online:
Homepage Facebook MySpace

REVIEW – David Hurn: ‘Sick Of Hate’ single, 1999 (“drained of energy but not of humanity”)

8 Jul
David Hurn: 'Sick Of Hate'

David Hurn: ‘Sick Of Hate’

For better or worse, former Ever-Opening Flower frontman David Hurn left behind a lot when he quit that band’s deep-blue, textured shades and unusual blend of Rain Tree Crow, Rush and Morrissey. It wasn’t just the rock-band muscle and ghostly electronics that Ever-Opening Flower offered, but the aggressiveness of the detail; the assertion and meaty impersonality offered by a pushing bass, rock drumming and high amplification… the way it can obstruct and drown any soft brush of associations which you might want to imply rather than state outright. Pros and cons.

Left to his own devices, Hurn’s songs are hushed, internalized, almost entirely acoustic; and none of them rises much above a whisper. His guitar and the wistfully resigned tones of his low-tenor voice are joined by droplets of detached, forgetful piano and the sorrowful whistle of detuned radios. Sick Of Hate is a spare, isolated, note-picking thing; drained of energy but not of humanity. It’s the soft, tired noise left behind after the London bustle has passed and the frantic energy has ebbed. “I’m sick and tired of hate, / Of rain on the streets./ You and me are far too small to make a difference…” If it fights back, it fights back like the grass – bent back by hostile forces but refusing to be shaped by them.

There are some shades of Red House Painters (and the perennial Nike Drake) in there. It’s the sighing gloom, the mouse-like quiet; the way you have to focus yourself in on the story, to have to want to care before you can get anything out of it. You’re eavesdropping on the final deterioration of a love affair, the lack of conclusion after the arguments become meaningless. David murmurs “The mess that we made needs cleaning up for the last time. / Are you feeling weak and poor, or just tired?” In some ways Sick Of Hate also looks back towards Hurn’s old debt to David Sylvian; but where Sylvian wraps himself in impenetrable mystical robes and perfects the shamanic droop of his eyelids, the other David still cares about the realities ruling the strained existences of everyday people. “The value of our lives, that we would both die for – / but something’s telling me the truth matters more…”

The B-side – (For Missguided) – is Hurn at the ambient guitar sketchpad. He improvises with sombre, spinily picked chords on his acoustic and with moaning soundscapes of experimental string noise: pings, knocks and microtonal whale whispers. It’s like the spookier moments of Pink Floyd’s ‘Meddle’, or like Bill Nelson locked in with Bert Jansch during a rain-swept dusk. In its way, it continues Sick Of Hate’s autumnal atmosphere of regret, inertia and (with its empathic sense of resignation) even a touch of grace. While the bittersweet fog of sadcore usually blows, trapped, around the happysad streets of San Francisco (or wherever Will Oldham or Bill Callaghan might be hanging their battered hats), David Hurn, a prince of rueful shrugs, is establishing a bridgehead for it over here in the tired old brickwork of the Smoke.

David Hurn: ‘Sick Of Hate’
day Release Records Ltd., DR105
7-inch vinyl single
Released: 1999

Buy it from:
Burning Shed (original vinyl single is a limited edition of 1,000 copies) – otherwise look for this second-hand.

David Hurn online:
Homepage Facebook TwitterMySpaceSoundcloudLast FM

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