Messages of hope wrapped up in a bunch of sugar-rush rock songs.
Label: Raygun Records
Released: 19th January 2018
From start to finish and top to bottom, ‘Hold On To Your Heart’ feels like the companion piece to 2014’s fantastic ‘There Is Only You’. That album detailed the breakdown of frontman Murray Macleod’s long-term relationship, in often harrowing detail. Stylistically this is the prequel, with 80s synths and pulsing drum beats replacing the feverish 90s-indebted indie rock of ‘There Is Only You’. The influences are worn proudly, and poignantly, in the wake of the untimely death of Murray’s hero Tom Petty. There’s no ‘American Girl’-sized crossover here, but the wide-open choruses and purposeful blend of keys, electric and acoustic guitars are all reminiscent of The Heartbreakers’ trademark sound.
The emotions of these songs are a far cry from the heartache of ‘Kick It’ and the desolation of ‘I Don’t Care’. That anxiety has been replaced with optimism on ‘Feels Like Falling in Love’ and a far more peaceful reflection on ‘Daydream’. From the delicate piano of opener ‘The Dark’, the record strikes a more optimistic tone than the sorrowful chords that closed the previous album, with Murray imploring “tell me when the worst is over”.
What follows is a string of power-pop anthems that shoot for the stars, and for the most part, they hit the mark. The E-Street saxophone solos on ‘Drive Me Wild’ are a risk but Macleod’s straight-faced sincerity and a solid gold hook make it work. ‘First Kiss Feeling’ is a bouncing pop song that in another life could have been a One Direction chart-topper, and the yearning ‘Crazy’ features a fantastically choreographed fadeout.
Where ‘There Is Only You’ found anguish and despair in the heartbreak, ‘Hold On To Your Heart’ celebrates life and love, and that even between two people who’ve lost each other, those moments shared are what makes life worth living. No matter how dark things get, this album tells you to never shut out the light in your life. These messages of hope wrapped up in a bunch of sugar-rush rock songs hit the mark as The Xcerts stake their claim. Dillon Eastoe