Hozier's eponymous album is an unexpected pleasure, and it gets better with every listen (well, so far). Robin chose this album for us to review this week on the strength of the single playing everywhere. “Take Me to Church” sounds like Elton John at his best, and that’s enough to hook Robin. Fortunately, the whole album is packed with great lyrics, richly textured sounds and solid rock tunes.
So far, “Take Me to Church” is getting all the attention, with Taylor Swift tweeting her approval to 45 million people, and a socially conscious video that has racked up 19 million views. It’s a great song, elevating sex to the status of a new religion. “If I’m a pagan of the good times/ My lover’s the sunlight/to keep the Goddess on my side/she demands a sacrifice.”
There’s a tradition of Irish artists loudly struggling with their church, but Hozier skips right past all that tired crap to crow about his own pagan joy. Hozier’s not going to get tied down into theological arguments or join in with the typical railing against organized religion. Instead, he’s joyously romping in the sack and finding his religion there.
As good as that song is, Hozier doesn’t just replicate the sound for a dozen more tracks. Each of the 13 songs on the album has its own sound, distinct from the others. “The Angel of Small Death & the Codeine Scene” offers another homage to sex in a gospel style, complete with a swelling chorus and clapping hands.
“Jackie and Wilson” is plain fun, with some of the best pauses since Living Colour recorded “Love Rears Its Ugly Head”. “Work Song” is a redemptive spiritual devoted to his baby “sweet as can be,/She’d give me tooth aches just from kissing me.”
It’s hard to describe a voice, but his is liquid and rich. He sounds somber and grave on “Angel of Death” and then sunny and happy on the infectious “Someone New”. And, as mentioned in the first paragraph, he absolutely nails an Elton John imitation in the opening track, “Take Me to Church”.
It’s also hard to choose a favorite track, but there are several that stand out. “From Eden” is a creepy stalker’s tale with an unnerving cello. “I slithered here from Eden just to sit outside your door,” proceeds to “To the strand (beach), a picnic planned for you and me,/a rope in hand, for your other man,/To hang from a tree.”
“Sedated” portrays a junkie’s struggle to escape the grip of heroin, and he calls on his lover to save him – “Darling, don’t you stand there watching, won’t you/Come and save me from it?/Darling, don’t you join in – you’re supposed to/Drag me away from it.” I don’t think she does, and the two of them might be the two rotting corpses that show up in the inventive but disturbing duet, “In a Week”.
Like me, Robin enjoyed this album quite a bit, and she recommends it “wholeheartedly”. She doesn’t say it, but I know she wishes there were a little bit of that old Elton John sound, though.
Next up: Everything Will be Alright in the End, by Weezer