City and Colour, ‘The Hurry and the Harm’ – Album Review
On 'The Hurry and The Harm,' Dallas Green, aka City and Colour, sounds fully aware that more people will hear this album than have heard any of his previous ones. City and Colour have spread beyond the dorms of sensitive Canadian girls, and 'The Hurry and the Harm is louder, fuller and more ambitious than the project's previous three LPs.
The question on Green's latest album isn't whether something gets lost, but whether that "something" was there in the first place. Beginning with the opening title track, Green has no trouble crafting a swoony melody and singing with emotional conviction. But his vague, unoriginal lyrics defeat the purpose of the intimacy that seems to be the heart of City and Colour. Over the course of a few minutes, Green offers "give up the ghost," "everyone wants everything no matter the cost," "we can't let go of all the things we know," and Coldplay's exact concluding line of 'The Scientist,' "I'm going back to the start." Say what you will about Coldplay, but Chris Martin could walk circles backwards around Green as a songwriter.
Besides the lowest-common-denominator lyrics, City and Colour often relies on the kinds of production techniques you get from church bands that never go beyond rocking the chapel. Not to knock praise music, but the sonics are generally designed to not offend rather than to please, and on the falsetto binge 'Harder Than Stone,' the lonely call-and-response showcase 'Paradise' and forced-rhyme factory 'Death Song,' Green comes across as someone who only thinks in generic terms.
Even worse than the lack of individuality is City and Colour's failure to sound like a real person. On 'Two Coins,' lyrics like "I'm searching for a wisdom that every man seeks to find" and "I've got wicked thoughts a brewin'" stick out for how little they sound like the way people actually think or talk, making a chorus like "I've always been dark with a light off in the distance" more unbelievable that it already should be, considering the way the album actually sounds. Later, on "Ladies and Gentlemen," when the "darkness" emerges again, it's hard to believe there's any truth to be gleaned from a verse whose rhymes can so easily be predicted before Green actually sings them.
'Golden State' manages the album's only successful lyrical provocation, but writing a song against the state of California is not going to win you support from many, and the opinions are just ill-informed. "Why do they still write songs about California?" Because it's beautiful, the weather is great, it's often politically progressive, there are great music scenes and universities and sports and landmarks and a diverse culture and a rich history and Yosemite and the Golden Gate Bridge and Napa and avocados and probably a hundred other things that affect your life directly. So yeah, it's worth a song or two.
The good thing about 'Golden State' is it breaks the tedium. If the goal of the 'The Hurry and the Harm' is to take the audience to the same dark place that City and Colour feigns through poorly written songs, the album is very much a success.