Tuesday, 24 May 2011

ALBUM REVIEW: Dave McPherson - The Hardship Diaries

Dave McPherson has enjoyed chart success and frightening levels of fan-worship as frontman of British metal outfit InMe. He has also, to all intents and purposes, suffered a great degree of hardship along the way - and this is catalogued in his first full album as a solo artist.
Before a large number of you slam your laptops closed in disgust, The Hardship Diaries is not an exercise in 'poor little rockstar', bitching about all that damned adoration and hanging out with all those dratted celebrity types. It is, instead, a very human examination of love, loss and life, reminding us that behind every musician lies a very real person with family, bills to pay and probably holes in his shoes.

The Hardship Diaries is set out over four seasons, seemingly examining one love story over a year. 'Spring: Hearts Need Blood', is a vocals-led melody piece with rising strings, 'Hearts Need Blood' examines the highs and lows of love with Dave's rising, clear vocals putting a serious emphasis on the emotion behind the song. 'Is this all we are?' is a similarly melodic track with much less cuddly subject matter, (but you could probably tell that from the title, couldn't you, you clever muffin) with the repeated mournful refrain 'is this all we are?' bullet-pointing the clever series of chords and quiet harmonies.

'Summer: She puts me in a good mood' is a joyful little slice of sunshine, perfect for summer afternoons and feeling good about life in general. It's interesting to note that the song stands out as a highlight despite McPherson's gravelly voice being almost MADE for more introspective songs. The acoustic guitar base of 'Summer... ' is accented by a beautiful repeated flute melody and layered instrumental pieces thickening out the track as a whole.

'Before I even had you' is another highlight of the album with a standout chorus and simple guitar chords which allow the layered vocals to steal focus. Lyrically, the song is about messing up a relationship before it's even begun because you're too invested (or a dickhead - this is not made explicit).

'Love rats' is another introspective one about - the clue's in the title - people cheating in a relationship. McPherson's voice takes the lead here with his vocals soaring over stripped back ballad-style guitar. This is followed by our next season - 'Autumn: A ghostly reprise', which has hints of InMe favourite 'All Terrain Vehicle' and one of the sweetest melodies on the album.
'Last Year' sounds almost like a country song, but with a layered sound that gives it a complexity that fits well with Dave's pretty vocals whilst Winter: Hibernation, a snuggly kind of song about finding love when you least expect it and being pretty darned happy about it, is signature McPherson, pulling together his trademark snappy rhythms held together by soaring vocal interludes and catchy choruses.

The Hardship Diaries may follow a string of acoustic EPs along the same vein but in this Dave McPherson has finally discovered his strength in writing truly powerful love songs, catchy enough not to drag, but mellow enough to create a soundtrack-to-life that should follow you around for a long time to come. Check out the song "Summer: She puts me in a good mood" below.

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