Glen Hansard: Between Two Shores review – as stuck in a rut as the love story he's narrating
Between Two Shores
Singer / Songwriter
If you’ve ever wanted to know what it feels like to be seduced by, go out with and be dumped by Glen Hansard, look no further than Between Two Shores, his latest album. Hansard is moving on from a relationship that’s stuck in a rut and by putting it into song and releasing it to the world, he is making sure everyone knows about it. Hell hath no fury like a musician scorned.
The Frames frontman, Swell Season collaborator, Oscar winner and the brandisher of a very battered guitar brings a full session band along for the ride on his third solo album, to help flesh out the full spectrum of emotions that a failed relationship brings, including the delightful double whammy of a broken heart and a bruised ego.
“Wreckless heart, take hold the wheel / You’re headed for a fall,” he pines on Wreckless Heart, which features a sad trumpet solo, pinpointing the devastation of a break-up.
He swiftly and spitefully moves on, on the aptly titled Movin’ On. “I should be singing your praises / Instead of banging this drum / I’m tired of thinking about you baby / I’m moving on,” he says and you can almost hear the engine of his beatdown Cadillac cough and splutter into action before vanishing off into the hazy sunset, leaving behind a billowing cloud of red dust.
Using Hammond organ and pained twangs of electric guitar, he beefs up his woes as a modern man with the forlorn tricks of Americana and roots but it’s as if he’s stepping back in time or, at least, stepping back into another self from a different generation’s story. E Street Radio, the US radio station dedicated to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, is mentioned as his chosen driving soundtrack (in his beatdown Cadillac) on Roll on Slow – with that nod to The Boss, it seems pretty clear whose boots he wants to fill.
In this looking back, Hansard’s Between Two Shores treads a thin line between romanticised masculinity – picture him with a guitar slung over his back and nowhere to go but the open road – and the outdated template of hegemonic masculinity, where women are referred to as “girl” or “woman”, as we hear Hansard sing on Lucky Man, Setting Forth, Your Heart’s Not In It and Why Woman.
“Well it’s gonna be a lucky man / Who gets to take your hand / And play house with you a while,” he fondly sings on Lucky Man, awkwardly placing the unnamed “girl” at home when he’d rather go out into the unknown, as he declares on Setting Forth. He’s forever in battle with himself, agonising over staying in love and feeling stuck or being single and roaming free, but love and life aren’t easily placed into those separate categories and this mindset feels as stuck in a rut as the love story he’s narrating.
His battle continues on Your Heart’s Not In It, which is aided by the beautiful backing vocals from Dawn Landes and his Swell Season and Once collaborator Markéta Irglová, where he flips between being unreliable in one verse and dependable in the refrain, continuing the theme of exhausting indecisiveness.
Produced by former Kíla member and Frames guitarist David Odlum, who is behind some of the most highly acclaimed Irish albums of the past 20-odd years, Between Two Shores feels both tender and raw. While honouring the days of American rock gone by, it doesn’t sound overdone or aged but it’s a warm tribute to the artists who have undoubtedly influenced a generation of songwriters. Lyrically, Hansard either has one eye on the exit sign or has his foot slamming down on the accelerator, which, to some people, may capture the perfect complexities of romantic relationships, but for those that see through the bitty excuses people serve during a break-up, eyes will most certainly roll.
Between Two Shores is an honest outpouring of emotions that’s lodged in a time warp, where women are nameless and relationships feel like prison. The contradictions, the frailties, the warts and blisters of love and loss are unveiled. The final track, Time Will Be a Healer, provides some closure and solid advice, but if Hansard’s aim on Between Two Shores is to illustrate the frustrations of dating a stubborn man, he has done so with great success.
- Glen Hansard plays Town Hall Theatre, Galway, Jan 12th, 8pm; DeBarra’s, Clonakilty, Jan 13th, 9.30pm; Ulster Hall, Belfast, Jan 15th, 8pm; and Vicar Street, Dublin, Jan 17th and 18th, 8.15pm. glenhansardmusic.com