Ah, The Xcerts, how we missed you. Four years after There Is Only You, the Brighton based trio have returned with Hold On To Your Heart, and let’s cut to the chase – it’s brilliant. A 10/10 on our first ever review.
The Xcerts have always been fine songwriters. Their previous releases stand testament to that. But since their debut record, Murray, Jordan and Tom seemed destined to follow the stylistic steps of Idlewild and Biffy Clyro without so much as a sideways glance.
Not anymore. Hold On To Your Heart is the sound of a band doing not what they should, but what they want.
Gone are the songs which conjure up images of winter in Murray and Jordan’s native Aberdeen. In are fist pumps and denim jackets. Forget Biffy Clyro and Idlewild, this is Petty and Springsteen.
Let’s look at how the trio have accomplished this transformation. We start with ‘The Dark’, which sounds like a track from the band’s back catalogue. It is a line in sand which must be crossed to move forward. The lyrics are tender, pained, and at times helpless – evocative of the lows Murray hit after the last album. As he cries out “Tell me when the worst is over” only a faint echo replies from the void. He is alone. What do you do when there is no one out there to hear your plea?
You dream. ‘Daydream’ is the polar opposite of ‘The Dark’. The soaring opening guitar riff suddenly fills that void with hope and warmth. This is a perfect piece of 80s nostalgia. There’s an effortlessness to the way the song races from section to section, as if Murray is hungry to feel hope again. It’s a hunger that is infectious.
The third track, ‘Feels Like Falling In Love’ is just as bold. The band emerge from the darkness, ready to strut their stuff. There are power chords, lyrics to be shouted by crowds of thousands, and a guitar solo that is short but oh so sweet. Sometimes the simplest things are the best.
That newly discovered optimism is present throughout this record. ‘Drive Me Wild’ and ‘We Are Gonna Live’ have a real lust for life. ‘Drive Me Wild’ holds nothing back, with an unashamedly bombastic saxophone appearance from Black Peaks’ Will Gardner. It’s just great fun. ‘We Are Gonna Live’ might not be The Xcerts’ best track, but the determination you feel as Murray shouts “We are gonna live!” blows you back several feet. Nothing can stop this band now.
The closing track is another moment of quiet desperation. ‘Cry’ is an ode to those promises made which everyone involved know can’t be kept. The band might not thank for me for the comparison, but there are some serious Bryan Adams vibes to be heard as the track swells towards the end. And I love it.
Many have described this record as “career defining”. Certainly the shift in musical style allows The Xcerts to stake a claim for the big time. However, looking at the band’s body of work, I find it hard to honestly say that Hold On To Your Heart is head and shoulders above any of their other albums. That’s not a criticism – The Xcerts are just that good.
I would argue that this album is more of a career evolution. Hold On To Your Heart allows Murray, Jordan and Tom to remove the shackles of their past. In the future, they can create any sort of album they want, confident that anything is possible if you dream.
Sounds Like… Bruce Springsteen riding an eagle in to the sunset.