Ah, rockstar-dom: perhaps nowhere else does there exist another profession laden with as many clichés (insert Spinal Tap reference here). Among those at the top of the list is the soft, acoustic, singer-songwriter release and/or side project required from a hard rock front man. Enter City and Colour, the solo project from Dallas (a city) Green (a color), formerly of Ontario’s post-hardcore group Alexisonfire. While Green has released a few records under the City and Color name while his main band was still together, The Hurry and The Harm marks the first output since Alexisonfire’s breakup.
While it is certainly admirable for a musician to want to expand their repertoire and explore further styles, sometimes it is better to keep that exploration close by; release of every thing written isn’t always advisable. That is not to say Hurry is an atrocious, tortuous listening endeavor; it’s not at all, but it’s also not the strongest collection of material ever presented.
The songs themselves are passable enough. Most clock in around 3 or 4 minutes, feature Green’s approachable, acoustic guitar and are filled with vague, slightly nonsensical phrasings that could be applied to nearly every listener’s situation at one time or another. After all, who isn’t “trying to find a direction home” (“Of Time And Space”) or “searching for paradise / [they] can’t seem to find / searching for paradise / for the time of [their] life” (“Paradise”)? Universal themes of growing older and realizing that life isn’t as you imagined your future as a child, of self (re)examination and of constantly searching for some unknown thing that will make everything perfect (“searching” probably being the simple most used word across the album) make these songs perfect tunes for pop radio stations, if the phrase “pop radio” wasn’t synonymous with auto-tuned noise. The musical and vocal stylings tread a fine line; they’re never triumphant, but never completely sad or down either, allowing the listener to project their own feelings into the song.
But it is precisely that which is also the album’s biggest turnoff; there is absolutely nothing about this record that sets it apart from the myriad of other indie pop records. In fact, there is nothing that sets any one song apart from any other on the collection. Green’s airy, breathy falsetto, while fresh on the opening, title track, soon becomes monotonous, at times becoming one long flow of run-on syllables rather than individual words. In “Of Time and Space” and “Take Care,” the vocal actually gets absorbed by the string instrumentation and lost entirely. Unless actually watching the track count change, there is no discernable difference in the sound of “Take Care” and “Ladies and Gentlemen.” With very slight exception, the melodic delivery doesn’t vary. The vocal approach never changes, escalating the mind numb factor to beyond boring before the record even reaches its halfway point. Green declares he’s “not trying to be revolutionary,” but a bit more of a varied approach would go a long way in removing the glaze from the listener’s eyes.