Ed Harcourt The Beautiful Lie

It looks like Ed Harcourt’s moment in the sun has passed. When his debut record, Here Be Monsters, was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in 2001, it looked like the world was his oyster. He toured with both R.E.M. and Wilco, but each subsequent album has been greeted with less acclaim and the release of The Beautiful Lie has barely registered on the ever fickle UK music scene. That’s a real pity because this, his fourth album, is his best since those early days. He still does sweeping piano ballads better than most and he knows a good tune when he hears it. But he doesn’t know when to stop — cutting out three or fours songs would have added some focus to the album — and he has a tendency to drift into bland, Keane-like territory far too frequently. This is supposedly his happiest record yet because of his blissful personal life which now finds him married (his wife provides vocal on three songs) and that is perhaps where his new earnestness comes from. Maybe heartbreak is a better motivator for Harcourt because the sincerity on The Beautiful Lie is a little exhausting and, frankly, kind of annoying. His fans will be very happy with the results, but it is about time that Harcourt realises that more of the same might not be enough for those not already sold on his musical worth. That said, The Beautiful Lie does offer some good moments, but it is yet another case of close, but no cigar for Harcourt. (Heavenly)