Album – Hopeful Monsters – The Arts and Sciences

Posted by admin on February 16th, 2008

This is an album review sorely overdue. I first discovered The Arts and Sciences and indeed Paul Melançon, the lead singer, via the Evil Genius Chronicles podcast. Dave Slusher interviewed Paul at great length and featured tracks from both his solo albums and his Arts and Sciences collaboration and to say I was stunned is an understatement. I was so excited I hopped over to his website like a giddy school girl and ordered all three albums, based purely on that podcast. Again the power of podcasting should not be underestimated. When I got the albums in, I was not disappointed.

While the two solo albums are fairly upbeat, this album has a decidedly darker twist. However it’s not a doom laded album by any means. The thing that really sells it is the amazing vocals. I recently sang the praises of Andy Liotta, of the Billie Burke Estate, as a master pop vocalist, along with many of my vocal idols. I would be remiss if I didn’t also add Paul as I find myself returning to his music again and again. There’s an incredible feeling of familiarity, which at times feels like putting on the slippers of a classic album, you know exactly what you are going to get, but you are constantly amazed at how incredible it is.

The album opens with “Tell it to the Bees”, which has featured on a few podcasts. It’s a very strong opener, but only gives the merest hint of the brilliance to come. “What She Kept” is a tad more sedate, neither exploding into chorus, or working up to a climax, but it still manages to be very listenable. “Dark Double Bed” is a track also featured on various podcasts and it’s hard to ignore the similarities to this track and Crowded House. “O Columbia” shows another side to Paul’s songwriting and it’s a side that whilst enjoyable, still has me hankering for the more upbeat style of writing.

With, “You are Her(e)” we are drawn back into the more melancholic sound and although melancholic, it’s hard to feel too dour and downbeat. This is certainly no Morrissey maudlin tour. I love “Gravel Queen” as the opening reminds me of the TV theme tune to a great British police show called The Sweeney. It’s a comparison that certainly bears no relation to the track itself, but I love it when a song takes you in a direction you are not expecting. “Fluoxetine” is again a more melancholic track, which appears to be about drug dependency, but again Paul’s vocals are more optimistic, rather than hopelessly lost.

With “Fall Down” I realised that again I’m going through the track by track analysis, which I’ve been trying to avoid, but each track has something compelling to offer and along with the relative tardiness of this review, I thought “what the Hell”. This is however a pleasant track, which has a driving beat running through the heart of the song and making it hard to dislike. It’s not one of my favorite tracks on the album, but even my least favorite track, would compete with the best track on some albums. “Boom Echo” is a very interesting track, with very prominent guitar and great contrasting male and female vocals. The album supposedly ends with “The Monsters at the End of This Book”, which has a wonderful vocal track, with just a hint of reverb and loftiness. With the acoustic guitar track it sounds amazing.

I said before that the previous track was supposedly the end of the album, as once again Paul manages to add a bonus track. As is usual, the track is a cover song, but surprisingly enough, the cover here is of an old Hot Chocolate track, “Emma”, a great song, that proves an inspired choice.

Conclusion : Don’t skip a beat, purchase this album as a matter of course, to make your music collection more complete. For the ultimate in completeness, also pick up a copy of Paul’s two solo albums.

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