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If you loved Savage garden forget what you have heard. This alblum from former Savage Garden frontman Darren Hayes far surpasses the previous offerings. The songs flow and provide music of all styles and tastes. Some of the songs seem to be guilty pleasures for the writer but they are exceptional. Songs such as Step Into the Light and Sing To Me are just sublime and take you on a trip to far away lands. Songs such as listen all You People are calling card for anyone who has felt excluded or shafted by a system and society such as ours. There are songs that ache of the angst that people feel when in a dark place and yearn for better ( Casey reflects this brilliantly, as does Walk Away). And then a song like Words pops up and blows you away with how simple it is, but extremely powerful. The two CD's worth of songs are excellent value for money and there is not a bad one amongst them. The music is grown up without being boring and it's easy to find one or more to suit your mood on most occasions
After a few rather controversial moments over the past twelve months, from the rather unexpected civil service to partner Richard Cullen to the supposed racially motivated verbal attack in a Thai restaurant (the claim has been vigorously denied by Darren Hayes and his lawyer), it seems that the previously successful Australian artist was being trusted into the showbiz spotlight for his private life rather than his music!
Being a fan of the man himself since the days of Savage Garden, it may surprise you to learn that I wasn't really bothered about his latest album, 'This Delicate Thing We've Made'. After hearing the first single from the double disk compilation, 'On the Verge of Something Wonderful', I wasn't over struck; I could very much take or leave the whole thing.
Then came my Brother's birthday. Like me, he was a huge fan of this albums predecessor, 'The Tension And The Spark' with its raw, honest lyrics to edgier music style, it is one of my personal favourite albums. But - unlike me - he was eager to give this offering a try, so we managed to get the set for £12.99. However, after one listen to the first CD, he declared that he wouldn't be bothered about listening to it ever again.
Deciding that the statement was perhaps a little harsh, and being someone who is quite a critical person when it comes to music, I decided to give 'This Delicate Thing We've Made' a try, despite my fears that this album wouldn't be a scratch on the last.
1) 'A Fear of Falling Under'
2) 'Who Would Have Thought'
3) 'Waking the Monster'
4) 'How to Build a Time Machine'
6) 'Step Into The Light'
7) 'Sing To Me'
8) 'A Conversation With God'
9) 'The Sun Is Always Blinding Me'
10) 'Listen All You People'
11) 'The Only One'
12) 'Bombs Up In My Face'
13) 'The Great Big Disconnect'
1) 'The Future Holds a Lion's Heart'
2) 'On The Verge of Something Wonderful'
4) 'Walk Away'
6) 'Me, Myself and (I)'
7) 'Lucky Town'
8) 'I Just Want You To Love Me'
9) 'Setting Sun'
10) 'A Hundred Challenging Things a Boy Can Do'
12) 'The Tuning of Violins'
As there are 25 tracks, I have picked five from the first CD and six from the second which I think best represent how I viewed the album; as a very mixed bag of excellent and terrible tracks.
2) Who Would Have Thought (4.30 minutes)
Written with Robbie Williams' former collaborator, Guy Chambers, 'Who Would Have Thought' is a track that I recognised after appearing on Darren Hayes' official myspace page. Following the traditional formula to his angsty love songs, this is a track that I rated a lot higher than the opener; the song evolved logically with lyrics that I think a lot of people would be able to relate to because of the manner in which they were written; very honest and heart felt. Musically, I felt it was a lot better too with edgy electronic keyboard sounds and base drums, it was more enjoyable to listen to and certainly one to make you more curious about the album ahead. From this point on, I was almost eager to discover the path Darren would take me on, in terms of the progression of sound and lyrics.
Marks out of 10: 8 - A song that I think would have fared better as a first single.
3) Waking The Monster (4.07 minutes)
This song is possibly the most adventurous story teller that Darren has attempted. Although sounding a bit like Bart Simpson on Helium, he tells the tale of an apprentice science professor, eagerly awaiting what his master is inventing. Although not being let in on the secret, he soon loses his patience before finding out for himself exactly what is going on. Although I did like the idea of looking outside the box into a person of a different profession, I did feel that the song wore a bit thin and didn't tell the story perhaps as well unless you were reading the actual lyrics with it. The hasty vocals of 'Gotta know, gotta see', made it slightly irritating to listen to for me, as if he was taking on the persona of an obnoxiously impatient child on Christmas Eve.
Marks out of 10: 6.5 - would have been good if the vocals were a little more palatable.
4) How To Build A Time Machine (5.51 minutes)
This track starts with a wonderfully soft guitar riff and my ears instantly pricked up. That was until Darren started singing. Bringing back dreadful memories of GCSE Physics lessons, with the velocity equation thrown in for good measure, that irritated me; I found it completely out of place with the music its self. The problem then became with the desperate attempt at re-creating the song 'Crush (1980 Me)' from his first solo album 'Spin' with the mismatched electronic sounds made via a synthesiser. Again, when you take the lyrics away from the song, you are witness to beautifully painful memories from Darren's childhood where he was bullied, right until his Father's death. Although the concept of going back in time with the use of a machine and being able to change the future for the better is interesting and a good topic for a song, I felt that the juxtaposition of the cheerful tune and the rather tragic lyrics was just too great.
Marks out of 10: 6 - the music and lyrics just didn't fuse to make this song as good as it could have been.
11) The Only One (3.42 minutes)
You do get the sense that this one was indeed written for Richard Cullen. On the track 'So Beautiful', realised in conjunction with the 'Truly, Madly, Deeply' Savage Garden Collection, Darren talks about leaving his cynicism to another world, a view he chose to express once again here. I think this song is accessible to anyone who has found 'The One'; when they feel ridiculously down because of others and the world around them, there is only one person who could possibly make it right. The tune was tender and suited the lyrics well.
Marks out of 10: 9 - a triumph for the real emotion Darren is wearing on his sleeve for all to see.
12) Bombs Up In My Face (3.39 minutes)
Oh dear. Just when you think the compilation might be turning a corner, you certainly get some bombs up in your face! The vocals, mixed and dubbed to sound like a character from South Park, really destroyed every bit of good intention this track may have held. Reminding me of the title track from his debut solo album 'Spin', Darren is really hitting out at the media here, expressing his distain for airbrush models and even talking about the President who 'F***ed the world up for every future boy and girl'!. I do like the sniping of the lyrics, Darren even choosing to mock those who disapprove of same sex Unions. However, the tune was overbearingly fake, another boring dance type track and I felt that - when he wasn't singing like a South Park character - he sounded like a poor Michael Jackson impersonator!
Marks out of 10: 6.5 - the lyrics were superbly written and dangerous but the tune was just dire!
Well, with that being the end of the first disk, I have to say that Mr. Hayes has offered a very mixed bag so far with there being some very good and some very mediocre songs thrown together.
Perhaps disk two has a better mix?
1) The Future Holds A Lion's Heart (4.02 minutes)
The steady piano melody combined with rough drums sets quite a dramatic turn for this track. Once again, Darren's vocals have been muffled a little, perhaps made a little higher, I honestly didn't like this song when I listened to it first time round; I felt it was too over produced. I'm still unsure of whether I really like this track or not. Compared with some songs on the last CD, I would have to say it was quite a step forward but I just couldn't shake off the feeling that some of the sounds seemed familiar - from a Sonic game I played more than ten years ago! The lyrics, I have to say, are very catchy and is one of the most sing-along friendly songs produced for 'This Delicate Thing We've Made'.
Marks out of 10: 7.5 - some dodgy melodies in there but nothing too appalling!
2) On the Verge of Something Wonderful (4.02 minutes)
I can understand completely why this was the first single from either CD; 'On The Verge of Something Wonderful' is very up beat and quite up tempo and would attract some new fans, I would expect anyway. Darren's vocals are recognisable because of their amazing versatility. I wasn't too struck when I first heard this song but since then, I've appreciated what Darren was getting at; enjoy the beauty that surrounds you and not to get too tied down with depressing events because everything will turn out alright. Although this didn't do too well in the charts, getting to #20 in the UK and #29 in his homeland of Australia, I do think that it's a lot better than most current singles out there.
Marks out of 10: 7.5 - It's grown on me.
4) Walk Away (4.46 minutes)
Knowing a little about Darren away from the music, I know that there was a time when he was desperately unhappy and angry. A lot of this anger was channelled in his phenomenal last album 'The Tension and the Spark'. However, I was glad when I listened to this track that some of those feelings were still yet to be resolved through song. 'Walk Away' is marginally epic, as if Darren's inner self - or in fact, who ever is feeling weak - is urging the person to carry on and to steer clear of the trauma in life. The line 'this man became a boy' to me felt simplistic but very real and, complete with Darren's gospel like backing vocals, this was a real winner on this album.
Marks out of 10: 9 - one of the gems on here in which Darren really does express a lot of powerful emotions.
6) Me, Myself and (I) (4.05 minutes)
After two gorgeous piano tracks, we are taken back to a crummy dance mix. Doing his best Tina Turner impression, I really didn't like this one as soon as it started. Admittedly, it would be pretty hard to follow up the last couple of songs without doing one of exactly the same standard but this one just sounded terribly weak. There is a mention of that time machine again and, with Darren's attempt at rapping, I'm not in favour of this one; the words are just feeble with the tune being even worse.
Marks out of 10: 4.5 - nothing more than something to fill the album up with. I can't believe it was released as a second single! What a strangely poor decision!
11) Words (4.34 minutes)
'Words' is an updated, much better version of the song 'I Can Never Get Enough of You' from Darren's first solo album. I originally didn't like that track from 'Spin' but 'Words' does bare some remarkable similarities in terms of melodies and Darren's all over vocal performance being controlled yet moving. From a personal point of view, I do consider this to be one of Hayes' strongest lyrical presentation ever; 'I see a Bible, I see a Bible in your eyes, all those codes and hidden meanings, full of metaphor and something for the faithless in me'.
Marks out of 10: 9 - breath takingly gorgeous.
12) The Tuning of Violins (4.30 minutes)
Going back to some of the classical sounding string performances that I enjoyed on 'Casey', the compilation ends on a much more upbeat and positive note. 'The Tuning of Violins', this is a lovers dream and another Darren Hayes song that I can see being popular at weddings. Although this wasn't one of my favourites, I'm glad that the album ended on an optimistic note with a track that I think would leave a good taste in the mouths of many listeners. Once again, Darren's voice made perhaps a very ordinary song into something a little bit special.
Marks out of 10: 8 - simple but very effective.
I would recommend this to anyone who has been a fan of Darren Hayes or who likes dances enthused pop music. However, I will warn those of you who, like myself, love diversity, this album can be a little too bland in places.
One thing that I was hoping for from this album was another evolution since the brilliant 'Tension and the Spark;. Unfortunately, I don't think we got that this time and, although I always love Darren's love songs and the way he can word his feelings so vividly and uniquely, I think that a double disk album perhaps swayed a little on the pretentious side for me.
With there being little variance in a lot of the tracks, I was a little disappointed with this CD. If you listen to the tracks individually, I think that it is a lot easier to appreciate them. However, clumped together on a couple of disks, I don't think many of them have had justice done to them.
What a shame but still not a bad effort; just not on the verge of something too wonderful.
(Note: Previously written and displayed on Ciao by myself, MizzMolko).
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Fear Of Falling Under
2 Who Would Have Thought
3 Waking The Monster
4 How To Build A Time Machine
6 Step Into The Light
7 Sing To Me
8 Conversation With God
9 Sun Is Always Blinding Me
10 Listen All You People
11 Only One
12 Bombs Up In My Face
13 Great Big Disconnect
Disc #2 Tracklisting
1 Future Holds A Lion's Heart
2 On The Verge Of Something Wonderful
4 Walk Away
6 Me Myself And (I)
7 Lucky Town
8 I Just Want You To Love Me
9 Setting Sun
10 Hundred Challenging Things A Boy Can Do
12 Tuning Of Violins