Harcourt, Ed : Here Be Monsters

Young star's assured debut

Just as Elbow slay you with their staggering epics despite

your natural inclination to the purity of the three-minute pop song, Ed Harcourt’s debut, ‘Here

Be Monsters’, will waltz into your affections regardless of any prejudices you might have against records steeped in early-’70s American rock. He is, simply, a right charmer.

While others would whisk us back to an earnestly authentic rock world of velvet flares, electric pianos and self-reverential ‘musicianship’, Harcourt’s retro sound is an exuberant, ambitious thing, which harks back to a

time when bringing jazz, blues, gospel or folk influences into play on a rock album was a perfectly natural thing.

The result is a richly melodic, markedly unfashionable album (double-bass, piano and a gravelly Tom Waits growl all figure) awash with playful, almost Flaming

Lips-like, arrangements, and studded with occasional explosions of aggression.

‘She Fell Into My Arms’ and, particularly, ‘Apple Of My Eye’

are songs bowling down ‘Cyprus Avenue’ – bellies full of wine, hearts full of love. Elsewhere,

a darker, tremulous Radiohead tone is couched in hummable melodies aglow with feeling.

In fact, ‘Shanghai’ – an all too wacky slice of Ben Folds piano-pop – apart, Harcourt doesn’t put

a foot wrong.

‘Here Be Monsters’: warm, bittersweet and, crucially, thirsty for life.

Tony Naylor