Sometimes you just have to roll with the selections of the random jukebox, and today it rewound back to 2010 and the surgingly sad synth-pop of Wonderful Life by Manchester’s slick, sharp tailored disco lento duo Hurts.
Soundtracking a happysad anthem for the dispossessed, the original video for Wonderful Life is so gloriously sombre and monochrome, it’s almost obscene, although frankly, up here, we could weep with joy. The angular haircuts, the savage cheekbones, the darkly lit black-and-white setting, the pained stares into the middle distance… it reeks of eau d’83 – the year when half-remembered bands with achingly pretentious names like the Lotus Eaters, It’s Immaterial and Pale Fountains took the shaved-sideboards-and-suits look of post-punk into the mainstream. There’s even a gorgeous Edie Sedgwick-alike who appears to be dancing to a completely different song. Bless her.
“We put an advert in a shop, ‘Female dancer wanted for pop video, must wear black, turn up at this place at this time.’ She was the only person who came, I just turned the camera on and said ‘Okay, here’s the song, dance.’ I just couldn’t stop looking at her. Then Adam took her to the cash point and gave her like £20, said thanks and then that was it.”
The track itself has an epic, cinematic backdrop with noirish synths and brooding woodwinds that sees seriously self-conscious vocalist Theo Hutchcraft telling the stark story of a suicidal man saved by love at first sight. The optimistic chorus (“Never give up, it’s such a wonderful life”) contrasts with the dour verses, filled with references to crying and rain. It’s even got a Spandau-style sax solo to boot.
The whole ultra-manicured shebang gives the impression of a kind of Tears For Fears reincarnated, Hurts For Shirts: styled by Helmut Newton, directed by Anton Corbijn and produced by Trevor Horn on a Martin Hannett tip. Nevertheless, Wonderful Life had to be released three times before it made its middling chart appearance at No.21 in the UK, though did considerably better ‘on the continent’, by which time a legendary New York producer had muscled in.
The sub-six minute Arthur Baker remix took away the big compressed drums and replaced them with the tight electro snap of an 808. Adding a squelchy bassline sequence reminiscent of a 303, Baker kept the song intact and satisfied those who felt, with their pristine melancholic minimalism, shy deadpan keyboardist (that’ll be Adam Anderson then), one word album titles Kylie duets and, yes, Arthur Baker remixes of their early output, Hurts were little more than a Primarni Pet Shop Boys for the poseur generation.
Surely some mistake?