Barry Hyde’s name may or may not be familiar to you, but as the former frontman of The Futureheads his distinctive voice undoubtedly will be. Malody however, contains nothing the likes his former releases, ditching electric guitar in favour of piano and a host of other acoustic instruments to orchestrate an ode to his mental illness.
Written in the “intense creativity that comes…with the highs and lows” of his bipolar disorder. The album is obviously very personal and has these highs and lows in almost equal measure. Hyde cites his first instrument as the piano and it shows as he masterfully bends the ivories to his will. The resulting tone and style on many of the tracks sounds like a cross between music from a big top and a silent movie soundtrack which sits will with the subject matter in an almost haunting, outcast way not dissimilar to the imagery that Tim Burton specialises in. This approach brings his playful joviality to the fray and while the instruments are different, that approach in itself is quite similar to his work with The Futureheads, that is where the similarity ends however as there are no vocal harmonies, no drums, nothing electric and no Kate Bush covers in sight. It also features some well composed instrumental numbers which help gel the tracks together as the running theme is obvious even during these.
The resulting work is unusual in its eccentricities and extremes, sometimes chaotic and sometimes calm (sometimes in the same song), as such the album is as bipolar as the man who wrote it. It’s an interesting self exploration, in fact I’m what Hyde has really achieved is a musical self portrait and although I can’t say this with any certainty, I don’t believe this is something that has been done by a contemporary artist before if indeed at all. Consequently, I feel it would be inappropriate discuss individual tracks as they are as much a part of each other as they are snapshots of moments inside Hyde’s head!
Musically, it’s not something I would normally choose and I don’t believe any one track alone would make sense, even as an LP with its eclectic nature and its ebbs and flows it’s something of a mixed bag. On the first listen I wasn’t entirely sure, so subsequent listens are definitely a requirement for Malody to make even a little sense!
I doubt it will have the commercial appeal of his earlier efforts, even so it’s a great artistic achievement that may well afford those of us with no experience of mental illness, a glimpse into the life of a sufferer of one of the many common ones diagnosed today. I applaud Hyde’s bravery and for daring open himself up to the world at large in this way and I for one, will be adding this one to the collection.