Sound: Alex Hulme is relatively new in the world of musical performances, and rather than being recognised as a higher standard, he's mostly been shown as a different standard. The main reason for this is the inherent difficulty that comes with trying to compare his work to that of anybody else. His eclectic collection of harmonies, layers and sounds that make you wonder what on Earth has just happened shows a certain innovative streak that is always going to push him forwards much faster than it holds him back.
His latest EP, "There Was A Boy", continues this trend, but with a certain renewed sense of upbeat optimism. Whereas his last EP was at full strength when you felt something slipping from your grasp, all of the tracks on this particular EP are about chasing that elusive happiness that we all crave. While the spirit of his live performances are not clearly captured, the EP provides a pocketful of the man himself due to the insights it offers. // 7
Lyrics: The title track, "There Was A Boy" is not the strongest of the tracks vocally, and is likely not an ideal choice for opener considering the development of the EP. While it starts the listener off on a more sombre tone, the track itself is one of the most energetic songs Alex has ever written. This contradiction is explained through the fact that it was not written about the artist himself, and is thus more of an act of rescue or protection depending on your interpretation. It opens the story, but does so by introducing a story entirely separate from that of the other tracks. Ending on Alex' trademark layering, the sombre tone does return to act as a bookend before it closes.
"Bones" is more simple in comparison. While also shorter, the chorus is stronger and the message clearer. The swelling of the music replicates the emotional connections that grow and fade as life goes on, while the lyrics paint an obvious picture of attachment. As with a lot of Alex' work, it praises a lack of fear that comes with spontaneity, adventure and the willingness to just keep going.
The third track on the album is called "Forests", and this is actually one of the more complex works. A recurring motif is that of growth and development. This is a common theme in the work of young artists, but the symbolism that comes with the height of trees and the density of woodlands also includes descriptions of other life amongst all others. Unity and family are the things that spring to mind here, and allude to a family that expands as more people come together as one with one common purpose. This particular track is nowhere near as energetic as the earlier two, but is more in keeping with the words spoken. The singer is an observer of the changing world, as the listener is a listener outside of the piece itself, and yet all consumed by it.
Finally, "Dare" actually brings us closer to the previous works and messages from Alex. This track reminds us of the importance of not letting go of what you have, but also serves as a reminder that other things can be within reach. Easily the most soothing of the four songs, the energy here is all provided by the vocals. The singer could likely play the entire song in arpeggios, as they provide all the backing necessary. That said, volume becomes something of an issue here at times. Alex often seems to be singing fuelled by a latent anger that doesn't exist in the other tracks. His voice is so far away from the guitar that the music seems to fade and become unimportant.
There are stories to be told behind almost all of the songs that Alex has written, or the covers he has chosen, and this connection with his work is what comes through most loudly. While passion is a word often passed around and even more often wrongly so, it is the thing that comes through most clearly when listening to Alex. While the opportunity to listen to these particular stories does not come through from an EP, live, Alex has a peculiar talent for making it seem as though each and every song is designed purely with you in mind. // 9
Overall Impression: Then, of course, we encounter the real problem. Live, Alex Hulme is a Dynamo - a tireless, natural-born entertainer bursting with energy. He can engage an audience, has stories to tell and always does something out of the ordinary. He draws attention to himself like a weight-lifting Budgie on steroids.
So, in a way, Alex has shot himself in the foot, stabbed himself in the a-se and poked himself in the eye, all in one talent-requiring motion. Outpaced by the live performance, the EP has to go down a notch to compensate. It's still good, certainly, but it's no longer great. It's kind of sad, in a way.
"There Was A Boy" stands well alongside a lot of Acoustic Alternative and Soft Rock albums by much more experienced artists. The one thing that it can't stand up against is Alex Hulme himself. Unfortunately, and fortunately, the Dynamo just keeps going. // 8