Ed Harcourt has been releasing solo material for well over a decade.He has worked and collaborated with the likes of (among others) Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Graham Coxon, Libertines, Marianne Faithfull and The Magic Numbers. In spite of his tenure, Ed Harcourt is far from a household name. His music has always been far from mainstream and with the imminent release of his 7th studio album Furnaces, he is showing no intention of changing this tack however, it is most definitely praiseworthy.
Harcourt cites that he wanted “…to make a record that people can cry, f**k and fight to” as all his “favourite records have that, whether it’s Prince or Nine Inch Nails”. Well, it’s now something in which Harcourt himself has succeeded. Harcourt’s songwriting ability is little short of genius and every track on Furnaces is layered, well balanced multi-instrumental. His voice is amazing and morphs to suit each track, sometimes even mid-song and while never sounding completely like anyone else I’ve heard before he has edges that sound like Trent Reznor, Bono and even Hozier!
To date Harcourt has already released 2 tracks from the forthcoming album in the form of title track Furnaces and Dionysus. Furnaces is a more upbeat song than many on the album, it features trumpets and a catchy, soaring chorus. It also carries a serious message regarding greed and burning through earth’s resources (which is cleverly reflected in the video) – “No matter how much coal you shovel into the most of your child / these furnaces still want more / these furnaces still want more…this is junkyard love on a scrapheap of lust / keep this furnace burning lest we turn into rust”. Dionysus starts with a beautifully sung intro accompanied by piano before sliding into a military drum beat accompanied by strings and eventually into a soaring guitar driven chorus with Harcourt’s top end vocal riding the wave superbly.
Aside these early releases, the remainder of the album has plenty of material which is of note. It’s awash with synth and more clever instrumental composition such as the tranquil and hypnotic You Give Me More Than Love. The cleverly named upbeat and happy guitar and piano driven Loup Garou (French for Werewolf for those that didn’t know) with the sing along chorus “I like my game bloody and raw” … “Loup Garou / don’t you know I’m a beast of a man / but you always come back for a little more”. The dark lyrics are definitely a juxtaposition against the backing! There’s definitely some great production here courtesy of Flood.
As a whole, the album is also well thought out with the tracks flowing into each other well as well as standing apart from each-other well enough that you know you’re listening to a new track. The artwork is similarly well thought out and having enlisted the help of Gonzo & Hunter S Thompson this is probably unsurprising! So it’s a well thought out package, with tracks that sit well alone and within the scope of the album, not something easy to produce and I personally think he has certainly achieved what he set out to do. In fact my only misgiving is that a lot of the tracks are so very Nine Inch Nails inspired that Harcourt’s own individuality is eroded a little – only a little mind you and not enough for me to cite this as anything less than masterful!