Hurts | Pop review

Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

With George Osborne channelling the economic policies of Geoffrey Howe, Manchester duo Hurts appear equally enamoured of the ways of the early 1980s. Their fixation lies with that era's new romantic synth-pop, a music of melodramatic electronic rhythms, glacial keyboard lines and an obsessive quest for edgy, exotic glamour.

The monochrome and besuited duo of singer Theo Hutchcraft and keyboardist Adam Anderson have delivered these tropes in spades on Hurts' splendidly overwrought recent debut album, Happiness, which snuck into the top 10. It's not entirely clear, however, that they are reaching the younger demographic: a large proportion of tonight's enthusiastic crowd look as if they could perhaps remember La Beat Route and the Blitz club first time around.

Hurts' attention to detail is certainly prodigious, from the icy, imperious swell of Anderson's synths to Hutchcraft's booming, portentous vocal. Much of their live set suggests a whistle-stop version of the annual 1980s revival Here and Now tour, with tracks such as Wonderful Life, Stay and Better Than Love variously evoking Tears for Fears, ABC and Erasure. If they want to play down the Midge Ure comparisons, they should probably rethink having a song called Verona.

With his exquisite cheekbones and slicked-back coiffure, Hutchcraft looks the part but proves an endearingly nervy, gauche presence between songs: "That was a nice little treat, wasn't it?" he reflects after two female dancers make a brief appearance, while an arch, pristine refiguring of Kylie's Confide in Me leaves him beaming with glee. Hurts are a guilty pleasure, but a pleasure nonetheless, and probably need only one stellar single to progress from being a likable period piece to serious contenders.


Ian Gittins

The GuardianTramp

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