Posted on October 14th, 2009 (1:36 pm) by Katherine Parks

The Idle Hands, comprised of two expatriate Irish brothers and three Minneapolis natives, are here to save the day, with their amalgamated sound of pop, punk, and dash of electro. Granted, the album kind of emanates a “too-cool-for-you-but-listen-to-our-record-anyway” feeling, similar to the vibe I get when I watch Judd Nelson portray the high school delinquent in The Breakfast Club, but the record is still highly likable.

On their debut release, The Hearts We Broke On The Way To The Show, the post-punk rockers have something inventive to bring to the table, and they make their case with the opening track “Loaded.” Sure, it sounds akin to something you might expect if you mashed up the talents of Joy Division and The Clash, but if you listen closely, there is a story behind the electro fuzz. “All the unrequited emo boys get loaded/ all the hopped up kids with their junkie friends get loaded,” croons Ciaran Daly, The Idle Hands’ lead vocalist, on this track. Okay, so what if each line of the song ends with the words, “get loaded”? Is that really a crime, or just a reflection of the skinny-jeaned, high-top-wearin', “scene” attitude of today’s youth? But even in its redundancy, at least it makes for good song material. 80s tendencies abound on this opening chapter, too; the simple, fuzzy guitar, bass and tambourine combination is kind of cute, and it works against the smoky, brusque vocals. Drum and keyboard are present and both excellent, but I wish I could have heard a stronger presence on this track. With the tambourine stealing my attention, I can hardly tell that Daly is trying too hard to resuscitate the Britpop movement.

“Secretary” is one of the slower tracks on the album, but it is still interesting. Musically, guitar, drums, and bass are on key and really amazing. As for the vocals, not so much. He can definitely belt out the lower notes, as heard on “Loaded” and “Liver and Brains,” but his ability to clear the roof of his upper register falls a little short. Truthfully, I can only compare Daly’s voice to something like a jilted Jarvis Cocker, especially at the beginning of the track, where his vocals are dubious and scratchy. Hey Ciaran, ever hear the word “lozenge”?

But then there are a few tracks on the album, like “Cosmic Dancer,” that make me question The Idle Hands. If the group is looking to be the second coming of Duran Duran, then “Cosmic Dancer” is their gateway to someday achieving tired, washed-up, 80s electronic rock star status. The song opens with a sample of something you might hear on an old episode of The Twilight Zone; a spooky, spacey kind of noise is fused together with a bouncy bass and semi-respectable guitar. Still, this track is just a little bland, and the vocals are hardly inventive, except when he sings about some girl against a spacey background. If you want to call that inventive. Noting the title, maybe that is what the group was going for?

To be entirely fair, I love quite a few songs on The Idle Hands’ debut effort. “Sunshine on the Tenements” is ridiculously upbeat and fun. Sure, it sounds like a sappy, teenage love story gone awry, but it is fast-paced, and I would be inclined to liken it to power-pop. Ciaran Daly redeems himself on this track, and his fellow bandmates simply reaffirm my faith in their talents. The guitar is colorful but cohesive, especially around the middle of the song, where some soft background vocals come in before the final swoop of the chorus takes control. Likewise, the drums are structured but neither overpowering nor distracting, and the bass provides a strong foundation for everything to fall right into place.

Another one of my favorites on the album is “Damage Control”. It breaks away from the rest of the record, at least sonically. The lyrics are still about some kind of juvenile heartbreak, but it works against the fun tempo. This song reminds me of something I might hear from The Bravery; it has similar bouncy, echoing guitar and flitting drum patterns, but just with an obvious lack of any keyboarding. Ciaran Daly keeps up his crooning, and somehow, he sounds eerily similar to Sam Endicott, front man for The Bravery. No worries, he has room to grow before he could fill those shoes.

Overall, this record is enjoyable, if you listen to the whole thing in one sitting. There are leaps and bounds of musical risk throughout, but all things considered, the album is respectable post-punk. The keys are a nice addition (when you can hear them), the drums are consistently solid and strong, and the guitar is, perhaps, the golden thread which weaves this group’s sound together. So long as Ciaran and Criostoir Daly don’t try to pull a decade-long brotherly conflict out of a hat (Oasis, anyone?), I am certain that these Irish guys and their Minneapolis friends will be making big waves in the indie realm soon enough, and The Hearts We Broke On The Way To The Show should give them a running start.

Track List:
1. Loaded (3:54)
2. Secretary (3:45)
3. Sunshine on the Tenements (3:21)
4. Liver and Brains (4:18)
5. Damage Control (4:12)
6. Cosmic Dancer (4:49)
7. The 80s Killed Your Boyfriend (2:20)
8. The Fall (3:22)
9. Married Life (3:19)
10. The Sleazer (3:17)
11. Space Thing (3:56)
12. Queen of Air and Darkness (3:01)

Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

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