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There was a contest I had with myself whilst working my old job in a off license in the middle of nowhere. In the interludes between serving semi wine connoisseurs and those with a toothless fix for cheap cider, there was respite in the form of either laughing at the pointless derision towards everything in my workmates' copies of the Daily Mail, or the games on my phone twinned with the only station that would play on the shop’s radio; Radio One. But strangely, I found the only point before the somewhat more interesting evening sessions that would save me was The Hoosiers' ‘Goodbye Mr. A’.
Now, I by no means profess to be any sort of modern pop obsessive. But the happy-go-lucky pointlessness of that song seemed to be an ironic stab at the vacuous nature of that which it fit into. It was, like early Alphabeat, a testament to the fact that classic pop could still be written with classic, almost rocky hooks in mind, as well as a a serious not to the idea of the ‘hook’. But in a recent interview it seemed that Irwin Sparkes (frontman of The Hoosiers and potentially slightly-remedial alter-ego of Adam Levine) was struggling to keep up with the rapidly changing pop horizon. He saw a need to change up the band’s stylings to fit into a more appropriate, dancier landscape.
So, with that in mind, what can be said about The Illusion Of Safety is that if you have any inclination towards the beautifully intricate synthesized pop of the Eighties, and hence a lot of modern accessible Shiny Songs, then the opening double gambit will, remarkably, make you quite happy. Lead single ‘Choices' has an almost Hot Chip-esque synth line, twinned with a chorus so gloriously nonsensical ("who doesn’t want a choice, after all?") that it strikes the same chord the Hoosiers hit when they first arrived on the scene. Next up and ‘Bumpy Ride’ could easily slide into a John Hughes film soundtrack, suggesting that the boys may have hit their stride in full. But, two killer pop songs does not a pop classic make. And unfortunately, despite their gallant strides, the rest of the album is a chore.
For the most part, Sparkes and co take ‘influence’ just too far, to the point where these songs could easily have been lifted from some kind of semi-obscure hair-metal back catalogue. ‘Live By The Ocean’ is a fine example of just how their mesh of sounds have gone all wrong, sounding like those chaps from Keane trying to build up to an almighty Van Halen style chorus. Attempts at balladry fall by the way side – ‘Who Said Anything About Falling In Love’ and ‘Lovers In My Head’ are too sparse in lyrical content to hold anything more evolved than a neandertholic ear, while the Girls Aloud baiting efforts of ‘Giddy Up’ and ‘Unlikely Hero’ simply don't work.
It can’t be said that The Hoosiers write total pap; it’s impossible to say that this is the worst pop album you will ever hear, because the substance that they have the potential to offer does come through on rare occasion. But they may just be another one hit wonder, of the sort that the decade they so wish to emulate churned out by the bucket load.
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