Amongst Extreme fans, Hurtsmile has been a long time coming, with the band releasing demos on their website as far back as 2007. But as history has shown, plans to record were put on hold when Extreme reunited.
But with Extreme now enjoying some downtime after the completion of their world tour following the release of their comeback album ‘Saudades De Rock’ in 2008 (Which was documented on 2010’s live album/D.V.D. ‘Take Us Alive: Boston 2009’), Extreme vocalist Gary Cherone has once again resumed work with Hurtsmile, who have finally unveiled their much anticipated self-titled debut effort.
What makes Hurtsmile interesting is those involved, including Cherone’s brother Mark Cherone on guitar (Who plays in The Who tribute act SlipKid, and was once a member of the band Flesh with Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt’s brother Paulo), bassist Joe Pessia (Who’s a member of Nuno Bettencourt’s DramaGods outfit and Tantric) and drummer Dana Spellman (Who was a student of former Extreme drummer Mike Mangini and was a member of Hypercane and Blind By Noon).
So with an obvious Extreme connection within the line-up of Hurtsmile, it would be fair to say that many would expect the band to sound somewhat similar to Extreme. But if there’s one thing that stands out about Gary Cherone’s numerous side projects, it’s that none of them sound quite like Extreme.
The album gets off in a heavy up-tempo rocking fashion with ‘Just War Theory’, which features plenty of strong lead/riff work from Mark, and a reliable and solid rhythm section holding up things behind the scenes. Even though Gary’s faux punk snarl is a little on the cheesy side of things, his vocals are in incredibly fine form, and help get the album off to a flying start.
Both ‘Stillborn’ and ‘Kaffur (Infidel)’ (A song reportedly influenced by reporter Daniel Pearl’s execution in the hands of Khalid Sheikh Muhammed) maintains the rocking vibe of the opener, but with an added edge of heaviness that gives the songs an overall tougher sound, and therefore stand out as favourites, while ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ stands out with an unexpected barber shop a cappella introduction before Mark’s slow and dark groovy guitar riffs and Gary’s trademark killer harmonies provide the album with another infectious rocking effort.
But like all of Gary’s work outside of Extreme, Hurtsmile’s album is full of different moods and textures, with the acoustic ballad ‘Painter Paint’ and the gospel influenced/
‘Hole Hearted’-like ‘Jesus Would You Meet Me’ showcasing the diversity Hurtsmile are capable of. While it’s clear that the band isn’t afraid to experiment, sometimes that willingness to step outside the box just doesn’t produce that something special. Examples of this can be found with the reggae driven ‘Just War Reprise’ (Was there a need for a reprisal in reggae form?) and the Bob Dylan/John Lennon sounding ‘The Murder Of Daniel Faulkner (4699)’ (Yes, it’s a great story, but hardly original sounding musically).
But when the experimentation works - it works incredibly well, as evident on the stunning two part epic ‘Beyond The Garden/Kicking Against The Goads’, the guitar driven ‘Set Me Free’ (By far Mark’s strongest performance on the album) and the rather modern hard rock sounding ‘Slave’.
Fans of Extreme will no doubt have an interest in Hurtsmile given who’s involved. But in saying that, if you’re expecting Hurtsmile’s debut to sound anything like Extreme, then clearly you’re not familiar with Gary’s solo work.
But for those who with an open mind and are well versed in Extreme and Gary’s long and varied body of work, then you’ll find Hurtsmile’s album lies somewhere between Tribe Of Judah’s ‘Exit Elvis’ (2002), Gary’s own ‘Need I Say More’ (2005) and Extreme’s ‘III Sides To Every Story’ (1992). In other words, expect the unexpected, and you’ll inevitably find something to your liking.
For more information on Hurtsmile, check out - http://www.myspace.com/hurtsmile
© Justin Donnelly