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'Hard Love'   

-  Label: 'Dead Oceans'
-  Genre: 'Rock' -  Release Date: '17th February 2017'

Our Rating:
Philadelphia's Tim Showalter makes no secret of having lived the life of riley according to the familiar sex, drugs and Rock and Roll template. But the burly, bearded front man is older now and wondering what comes next.

On the one hand he's happy to continue an uninhibited, reckless and spontaneous lifestyle but there's also the inconvenient truth that he's not getting any younger.

In On The Hill he sings about his excesses at the Boogie Festival but also reflects "I feel my life slipping away". By implication, this suggests that habits that are life-affirming in youth become a little desperate when maintained into middle-age.

All these conflicts come into play on a record that purports to "explore the balancing act between overindulgence and accountability".

It is a logical follow-up to 'Heal' from 2014 in which Showalter spilled the beans on his marital crisis and admitted to numerous personal failings. Hard Love is presented as delving deeper to be "the most fearless album of his career" but for me it's based on a false premise. Put simply,it doesn't convince me that he is ever going to be ready for a life of calm sobriety.

One penitent piano-driven non rocker (Cry) does not a reformed character make and he neither looks nor sounds like a man set on changing his ways.

On the contrary, a devil may care spirit pervades to the extent that, although he sings "I keep messing it up" on Rest Of It, a track like Radio Kids shows that he retains a nostalgia for his decadent youth.

The album closes with Taking Acid And Talking To My Brother, in which the hedonistic response to his sibling's near death from a heart attack does nothing to suggest Showalter has any genuine intention of settling down just yet.

As such, all the talk of bearing his soul is just a smokescreen and 'Hard Love' is therefore nothing more an average album in the classic rock tradition

Strand Of Oaks website
  author: Martin Raybould

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