Here we go, then. One of my most anticipated albums of the year. Is it going to be a disappointment? I’ve asked the question before of course, when Harry started his solo career I was totally ready, but unsure where he would go after the bright lights of 1D. Then I heard Sign Of The Times, a Bowie/Elton neon masterpiece and all doubt just turned to musical love. Two five star albums down the line, magpie-ing influences from all over the musical spectrum but always with full commitment and emotion, the self titled album was a glorious five star record that people looked at me strangely for buying and then Fine Line, where the very same people who had lambasted me for tying my heart to Harry Styles’ musical wagon were suddenly “Oh yes, that’s a great record, I bought the CD…” We’ve come a long way, baby.
Perhaps his record company will have him taking less chances with this third release, almost guaranteed to top the charts all over the free world. Then you notice that the opening track is called ‘Music For A Sushi Restaurant’ and you realise we are still in Harry’s World (or in this case, Harry’s House) and the album sends you down the rabbit hole faster than a white rabbit running late. The track, one of the most instant on the whole album sounds like you are being introduced to a party, all included, this is no snobby hang out, Harry remembers his One Direction roots and is not kicking against his similarly massive new audience, he lays out the red carpet. To younger listeners, it has the sonic boom of DNCE but those of us with a few more years on the clock can hear Prince or Morris Day And The Time. A grand start, indeed.
From the sound of the eighties, the album soon swings into a Laurel Canyon vibe, bits of The Mamas And The Papas here, Brian Wilson there, or on ‘Late Night Talking’, easy listening giant Barry Manilow. Yes, really. “I can’t get you off my mind”, the yearning is straight outta Broadway and it is beautiful. The fruit motif of previous albums, this time gives us ‘Grapejuice’, which would not sound out of place on Paul McCartney’s Ram, pure sunshiiiine as Liam would say. ‘As It Was’, seven weeks at number one already sounds like an old friend and shows no sign of outstaying its welcome. It’s strange as the classic ‘Light’s Up’ did not click with me at the time and only as the months passed did it reveal its treasures and now it is one of my favourites of all, but I loved ‘As It Was’ from the outset. As did the UK and America, where Harry is doing 10 dates at Madison Square Garden. Good taste, fellas.
‘Matilda’ brings back the darkness of the first album with the happy sounding lyric of “You can throw a party full of everyone you know” followed by the pitch black pith of “And not invite your family cause they never showed you love”. Wow.
“What could make this better?”, “Haha, I dunno, another of my favourite album authors of the last year coming out to play?” – Ladies, gentlemen and those of other persuasions, John Fucking Mayer. Yep, the creator of the classic Sob Rock album, a love letter to the eighties, brings his retro magic to ‘Cinema’ which was already one of my favourite songs before I even read the credits. Wild applause.
‘Daydreaming’ is a perfect song of yearning, “Give me something to dream about”, before the album takes a left turn and ‘Keep Driving’ and ‘Boyfriends’ both channel Harry Nilsson and Cat Stevens. The former pulls the swerve trick again “Ashtray, swimming pool, hot wax, jump in the pool” one minute before hitting the Richey Edwards bullseye with “We held darkness in withheld clouds” the next. The latter pulls further into the Nilsson vibes with the gutting “Weekend, when you get in, he starts secretly drinking”. This is not ‘She Loves You’, Toto.
‘Love Of My Life’ is quite the emotional send off. It’s heartfelt, it’s emotional, it’s about as 80’s keyboard emosh as you could be without actually being on the Top Gun soundtrack. But like many of the previous songs, it is a Shrek onion of a track (“You know, donkey, layers”), with its kiss off being “Baby, you were the love of my life” – WERE, this is not as expected a cartoon kiss to his current lady Olivia Wilde. Is it about Taylor? I mean, I’m sure he has had a ‘few’ other relationships, but that is what I picked up from it, the 80s sound maybe being a reference to 1989, too? I’m reaching here, the song could equally be about every one of us who occasionally thinks of a perfect girl lost. The magic of the whole album is that nothing is ever black and white, you can add or subtract whatever you want to make it fit your mood.
So, yeah, Harry’s House, no disappointment. It’s another stunning pop glitter ball and I’m excited that I already feel this way, having ‘only’ listened to it around 10 times so far (I was at work Friday and Saturday, but most of my outside hours have been in this record’s glorious company) and knowing that just like the two albums that preceded it, there will be a lot more to uncover as I delve deeper and deeper into the world of Harry’s House. It’s already a five star residence, hell in Monopoly, it is already a hotel on Mayfair. That’ll do pig, that’ll do. See you at Wembley, sir, by which time I will know ALL the words… 🙂