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The Xcerts - Hold On To Your Heart (Album Review)

Friday, 26 January 2018 Written by Jennifer Geddes

Behind the mainstream’s back, the Xcerts have been refining their craft with each release. On their fourth record, ‘Hold On To Your Heart’, they repeatedly showcase their speciality: anthems that make you want to punch the air like John Bender at the end of The Breakfast Club.

It’s no surprise that the band had the ‘80s teen movies of John Hughes in mind as they made the album. Each track here is filled with intense emotions, from the despair of heartbreak to the euphoric desire to live life to the full.

On Feels Like Falling in Love, frontman Murray Macleod’s vocals are earnestly desperate as he sings: “Believe in, believe in, believe in wild heart dreamin’. So tell me, tell me, that love can save me tonight.” It’s a sentiment fit for any of Hughes’ teen idols.

The director’s movies always had brilliant soundtracks, featuring bands like Simple Minds and the Psychedelic Furs, and it’s straight up power-pop that drives ‘Hold On To Your Heart’.

The whole album is filled with same speedy energy that drove Cheap Trick's classic single I Want You To Want Me, as well as the combination of guitars and synths that propped up Simple Minds’ Don’t You (Forget About Me). We Are Gonna Live, meanwhile, cribs its guitar sound from the Replacements and Drive Me Wild takes influence from the heartland rock of Bruce Springsteen with a big saxophone solo.

Fortunately, these genre references are rarely on the nose enough to fall into pastiche. Ironically, shiny synths are now so embedded in modern pop and rock that they sound modern. A track like First Kiss, for example, comes across like the 1975 on speed, while the chorus breakdown on Feels Like Falling Love wouldn’t look out of place of Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’, if you toned down the guitars.

But the Xcerts remain a rock band at heart, so guitars and hefty drums are still at the core of their music. It’s actually the contradictory mesh of trad rock piano and power-pop synths that makes this sound their own as opposed to feeling to on trend.

The tracks may be upbeat, and the choruses life-affirming, but hidden in the verses is the LP’s dark soul. Macleod was going through a tough time when writing the album, with a breakup alongside the death of his grandmother and a close friend, and all the songs focus on heartbreak, grief and feeling lost. But, unfortunately, the lyrics often struggle to really capture any depth of feeling. The Dark, a piano ballad, is really the only song here that comes close to mastering the storytelling that Springsteen or Tom Petty’s music became known for.

“Clench your fist or blow a kiss,” Macleod sings. “Ain’t life beautiful. Wasted dreams are scattered out in the streets while the girls and the boys get drunk. Yo, Freddy, it’s 2am and I’m surrounded by love but all I see is the dark.” The rest of the album lacks any real sense of time or place to add a sense of authenticity.

Still, Macleod’s lovely Scottish lilt does have a nice way of adding sorrow during the verses, as well as power to the anthemic choruses. Scotland does seem to have a knack for producing bands adept at creating anthems, whether that’s Biffy Clyro, Twin Atlantic or Simple Minds, and the Xcerts deserve to sit alongside them. And to take Molly Ringwald on a date at the end of the film, of course.

The Xcerts Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sun February 18 2018 - LEICESTER Scholar
Mon February 19 2018 - SHEFFIELD Plug
Tue February 20 2018 - DUBLIN Whelans
Wed February 21 2018 - BELFAST Barsub
Fri February 23 2018 - GLASGOW O2 ABC
Sat February 24 2018 - ABERDEEN Garage
Sun February 25 2018 - STOCKTON Georgian Theatre
Mon February 26 2018 - MANCHESTER Deaf Institute
Wed February 28 2018 - CAMBRIDGE Portland Arms
Thu March 01 2018 - WOLVERHAMPTON Slade Rooms
Fri March 02 2018 - LONDON Heaven
Sat March 03 2018 - CARDIFF Clwb Ifor Bach
Sun March 04 2018 - SOUTHAMPTON Joiners

Click here to compare & buy The Xcerts Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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