Hurtsmile - 'Self Titled' (Frontiers Records) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Johnny H   
Sunday, 09 January 2011 05:00

HurtSmileIf this debut album by Extreme frontman Gary Cherone's new side project is anything to go by, then 2011 is certainly going to be a year full of surprises that's for sure.  Formed during the downtime from his day job Hurtsmile boasts along with the aforementioned vocals of Mr Cherone, the talents of Gary's brother Mark on guitar, Joe Pessia on bass and Dana Spellman on drums. Making for a tight musical unit that packs as much of a punch as the band's ummm....logo.


Having lived by the rule of "never judge an album by its cover" for most of my life (I probably would never have listened to one Waysted album if I hadn't) the questionable logo that promotes this Cherone co produced platter is thankfully not an indication of the musical experimentation that lies ahead for you the listener. Now when I use the term experimentation, I don't mean jazz/funk fusion or anything like that.  No way, this is most definitely a rock 'n' roll album first, but what you do get within this twelve track debut, is a grab bag of musical influences/genres that somehow (and don't ask me how) becomes a cohesive and compelling musical statement when viewed as a whole.


So are you ready for a little experimentation?


Kicking off with the cynical statement that is 'Just War Theory' who would have ever thought I'd firstly be comparing Hurtsmile with John Lydon's Public Image Limited? Okay it might be Steve Vai era Public Image Ltd but the influence resonates so strongly throughout this two minute forty one second rocker it completely throws you off your mark.  I mean is this really the same guy singing who makes his living camping it up fronting a stadium rock band by the name of Extreme?


Talking of camping it up, Cherone having always been a long term fan of Queen openly embraces that influence within this band and when not sounding like Freddie and crew as they do on 'Painter Paint' Hurtsmile are flaunting Queen's propensity for genre splicing on tracks like 'Love Thy Neighbour' that opens up with a barber shop vocal before becoming one of the most infectious (and Extreme-like) songs on the album.  With lyrical themes containing some of Cherone's most pointed social commentary to date the underlying theme here is a call for unity and peace within a world obsessed with greed and intolerance, as the swaggering Stone Temple Pilots alt rock of 'Tolerance Song' displays by opening with a "Why Can't We All Just Get Along?" vocal refrain.  Why indeed?


Let's not forget the importance of the rest of Hurtsmile's line up in making their sound quite so eclectic, and Gary's brother Mark in particular picks up the mantle of guitar svengali with ease on tracks like the rock-tastic 'Stillborn' and the spiralling 'Set Me Free' whilst the rhythm section of Spellman and Pessia cling to each beat like their jobs depend on it adding textures and dynamics to brooding epics like 'Slave' and 'Beyond The Garden- Kicking Against The Goads' and on the reggae work out 'Just War Reprise'.  The latter being the only track on this album that doesn't really work for me, but perhaps this is because the album opener that it is reworked from is just so much better a delivery of the song.


With Gary Cherone himself declaring via his press release for this album that "Hurtsmile was about returning to my roots, writing a record in my basement, a straight up rock 'n' roll record... but it turned out to be more diverse and ambitious than I expected." I for one was never expecting this release to be quite so good, and whilst I could certainly live without the album's cover art, and one of two of Gary's more 'Stars In Their Eyes' vocal moments (you'll spot them), 'Hurtsmile' is an album I would certainly recommend to rock fans anywhere looking for something a little bit different right now.