Glasvegas - Euphoric Heartbreak
Record Label: Columbia
Release Date: April 5, 2011 (Digital); May 17, 2011 (Physical)
I can’t imagine that anyone familiar with Glasvegas’s 2008 self-titled debut was surprised by the title of the band’s sophomore release, Euphoric Heartbreak (or, as it’s been obnoxiously stylized, EUPHORIC /// HEARTBREAK \\\). After all, melodrama is at the heart of what they do; Glasvegas was nothing at all if not almost absurdly sentimental and aimed at a level of grandiloquence that was perhaps slightly beyond the band’s ability to deliver. Call it Tom Delonge syndrome. But like Delonge’s work with Angels and Airwaves (or at least the first album), the entertainment value of the songs is almost enough to make up for the fact that the statements they make don’t carry the significance their epic sound and perceived ambition seem to call for. (To his credit, at least Delonge never wrote anything as transparent and borderline campy as “It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry”.) And like it or not, James Allan and friends are back with a set of soaring anthems designed to hit you in in the heart. Even you up there in the upper deck.
After the quasi-ambient opening track, the album begins in earnest with “The World Is Yours”, a longing tale of star-crossed love (literally—“Please God, pull the stars to align,” Allan sings). It makes clear that the trademark Glasvegas sound—skyscraping reverby guitars, Allan belting to the rafters—will once again be the order of the day. This isn’t at all a bad thing, as the mass-appeal hooks were a main draw to their debut. And if there’s anything that can sell this sap and make it remotely convincing, it’s Allan’s cracking brogue, which is tailor-made for this kind of emoting. On “Shine Like Stars”, which as you would guess perpetuates the celestial imagery, the band introduce some glitchy electronics to their usual shimmering, as if their wall of sound wasn’t already thick enough, and yet like everything else, it just seems to work for them. Even on the awkwardly titled “Whatever Hurts You Through the Night”, Euphoric Heartbreak’s “Cheating Heart”-esque ballad, Allan can not only get away with cliches like, “I see you in the night walking past my house, I wonder if you feel the same as I do,” but make them gut-wrenching. Allan interestingly attempts to tackle a hot-button social issue on “Stronger Than Dirt” and “I Feel Wrong”, parenthetically titled “Homesexuality, Part 2” and “Homosexuality, Part 1”, respectively, somewhat puzzling subject matter for someone who is, from all the information I could gather, ostensibly not gay. So it makes sense that these cuts showcase Glasvegas at their most ham-handed. Indeed, they are rather grim and seem to feature Allan stating, rather clumsily, “It Doesn’t Get Better.” They leave me wishing he would just stick with what works for him, namely bleeding heart confessionals.
I’ve expressed a fair amount of negativity toward Euphoric Heartbreak, but Glasvegas are an endearing, though a bit try-hard, band, and Euphoric Heartbreak is an endearing, though a bit try-hard, album. What it isn’t is the gleaming masterpiece the fawning UK press would lead you to believe. It’s also not the steaming pile of dung the unflinchingly skeptical (and completely heartless) hipster media outlets would let on. And though it’s melodies aren’t quite as sharp as the debut’s, it is still another shiny arena-ready rock album delivered with bluster and believable passion. If the album has a major handicap, it’s that the title is all too appropriate; sometimes it so pretty, it hurts.