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Mass Gothic - I’ve Tortured You Long Enough Music Album Reviews

Noel Heroux of Hooray for Earth enlists his wife, Jessica Zambri, for a bombastic, exhausting album that betrays a deep desire to emulate Funeral-era Arcade Fire.

Mass Gothic’s second album begins and ends with a window. At first, the window is dark; by the end of the record, it’s merely big. Presumably the sun has come up. Between “Dark Window” and “Big Window,” this project from Hooray for Earth’s Noel Heroux exudes so much bombast as to become exhausting. While the first Mass Gothic record was essentially a Heroux solo outing, I’ve Tortured You Long Enough loops in his wife, Jessica Zambri, who co-wrote the album and sings throughout. The couple adopts a dynamic reminiscent of Win Butler and Régine Chassagne—at many points, I’ve Tortured You betrays its deep desire to be an early Arcade Fire release—but their songwriting choices don't support their incessant swings for the rafters.

The album introduces itself with a rhythmic figure pilfered from the Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Just Like Honey,” an homage Heroux already paid on Hooray for Earth’s “Last Minute,” from 2011’s True Loves. The Scottish band has clearly colored his approach to songwriting and production: Their haze and grit can be heard throughout his projects, and with Zambri he continues to work in their retro mold. I’ve Tortured You has a delightfully textured production style that blurs guitars, drums, and synths together like a painted background, allowing the singers’ voices to vault to the top of the mix. But Psychocandy balanced its blunt fuzz with a light touch. “Just Like Honey” is both noisy and delicate. I’ve Tortured You loses that nuance, blowing out its engines at every turn.

Power ballads generally work because they couple their enthusiasm with a certain disarming strangeness. The enthusiasm has to be grounded in something new, something that justifies the excitement. Arcade Fire’s lyrics on Funeral and Neon Bible conjured up imagery of primitivist utopias, of love alchemizing the mind. More recently, Lorde’s compositional whirlwind “Green Light” swirled together great white sharks and light-up dance floors. The words earned their delivery. Heroux and Zambri use a similarly dramatic vocal style to Butler, Chassagne, and Lorde, but their lyrics weigh down their songs. Their couplets are either trite, like “While you lift me in the air/There’s time only to love you,” from “Call Me,” or baffling: “Undersea where the viper glows/And the tragedy isn’t one I know,” Zambri narrates on “The Goad.” So a snake bioluminesces and nothing happens.

I’ve Tortured You never lets up on its fist-in-the-air rock eruptions. No small acoustic numbers punctuate the record; there is no time to regroup. Even within songs, Heroux and Zambri follow safe, predictable progressions. Multiple tracks reiterate a single vocal melody for their entire duration: no verse, no chorus, just the same stanza over and over. By the end, the window imagery that frames the album feels like a self-conscious metaphor. “I am looking out there/Big window,” Zambri repeats on closer “Big Window.” She does not tell us what she sees. Over pounding drums and roiling electric guitar, she issues the record’s final lyric in a voice that sounds like it wants to rouse stadiums: “It never happened.” The “it” has no antecedent. Again, we’re left with a blank space where emotion should be.

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