The 15th Anniversary: Ed Harcourt’s Here Be Monsters
Celebrating Under the Radar's 15th Anniversary and the Best Albums of 2001
Dec 20, 2016 Web Exclusive
Under the Radar's very first print issue came out in December 2001. In honor of our 15th Anniversary some of our writers are reflecting on some of their favorite albums (and movies and TV shows) from 2001, that are also celebrating their 15th anniversary.
"Let's make the big time
Aiming to climb high"
Fifteen years have passed since we first sang along with Ed Harcourt, linking arms and giving voice to our hopes and dreams. "Something in My Eye," the spacious opening track from Harcourt's debut album, Here Be Monsters, welcomed an immediate, passionate fan base (along with serious critical acclaim that included a Mercury Music Prize nomination) upon its release. The heavy-to-light instrumentation built a room around the listener-perhaps a sonic planetarium-within which the dark, lumbering guitar sets the mood only to have the lighter aspects-strings and harmonies, perhaps-swirl like stars above.
The track itself matched much of the rest of Here Be Monsters with its tempo, a meandering melody that became Harcourt's hallmark, if you will. Not that tracks like "Shanghai" don't turn this idea upside-down, but Harcourt largely allows his listeners to inhabit the mood of his compositions. You can listen and nod along and, when receiving the aforementioned invitation, you can join the songwriter in the climb. We're all in this together.
That idea of togetherness is woven throughout Here Be Monsters, even providing the tension found on songs like "God Protect Your Soul." "I need to build a wall around me/But I want to smile with everybody," he sings. It's the longing to engage clouded by the fear of doing so, and Harcourt's vulnerability opens us up as well. We're happy to nod along, even as he confesses his issues on "Those Crimson Tears." He sings, "Oh my dear, that's the way I am made, I'm afraid." We are, too, Ed.
Sentiments aside, Harcourt's own expansive instrumentation on Here Be Monsters set the stage for a career that's walked through the doors he propped up on this debut. The strings and brass. The rousing piano and the plaintive guitar. The lively and the lamentation. From here, Harcourt is free to move wherever his interests take him-the intimate From Every Sphere, the tortured Strangers, the eclectic The Beautiful Lie, the cinematic Lustre.
Earlier this year, Harcourt released his seventh (and finest) release to date, Furnaces, a confident, layered affair that shows just how far he has come from his earliest days. Yet in looking back and remembering his first release, we could sense, even then, that Harcourt was completely capable of writing an album as beautifully brutal as Furnaces.
Here's to 15 more years, and a hope that Ed Harcourt keeps climbing.
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