Heart failure

Heart failure

Hearts Fail is a band of young guys obsessed with old music. Specifically, they're into early-'80s synth-pop and the peculiarly British strain of post-punk known at the time as "neo-psychedelia," and manifested in bands like Echo & the Bunnymen, Psychedelic Furs, and the Teardrop Explodes.

Nostalgia for the music of this dawn-of-MTV era has never been higher, so it's no surprise that Hearts Fail has attracted a loyal cadre of local goth youth and electroclash adherents. For all its flirtations with melancholia, however, Hearts Fail always comes off as relentlessly pleasant and upbeat. Its eight-song debut CD, The Empty Promise, offers the requisite level of goth foreboding, but sounds more quaint than scary.

The empty promise

Hearts Fail
On melodramatic rockers like "Crashing Waves" and "Separate," the band showcases its flair for flanged-out guitars and synthesized strings, offering up a passable approximation of its biggest influences. But Edward Wagner's vocals never let you forget that it's all pastiche. Singing in a deep, thespian's bellow with a pointless British accent, Wagner is equal parts Richard Butler and the Ians - McCullough and Curtis. His affectations, meant to convey passion, only distance you from the material because you can't get past the distraction of his mimicry. He'd be much better off employing a more natural voice.

It's not unusual for a band in its early stages to replicate the work of its heroes, and Hearts Fail is a prime example. This group is still in the process of learning that, more often than not, imitation is the sincerest form of flatulence. •

By Gilbert Garcia


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