Following on from his first two self-released discs (‘Humans’ in 2007 and the acoustic ‘Frailty EP’ in 2008), Dom Liberati’s third release takes the sounds of his previous work and tightens them considerably, while bringing in some extra punch. Combining great hooks with a commercial alt-rock edge, ‘The Good Hurt’ is an album which captivates the listener from the first listen.
The lead track ‘We Own The Night’ begins with a jangly acoustic intro before kicking in to an alternative rock arrangement which has a bouncy air. The track has a very radio friendly quality and is a mix of influences – from new wave keyboard bleeps, to alternative rock moments in the vein of Goo Goo Dolls. Liberati’s vocal style has a tunefulness which often makes him sound at ease with this guitar driven alt-rock; however, for the chorus, Liberati’s vocals aren’t quite as restrained – their carefree manner tips the hat to Kings of Leon mouthpiece Caleb Followill [all the goodwill in the world still prevents me from calling that man a singer]. The simple hook and effective use of a ‘whooah’ make it a tune which sticks in the head. As such, it starts ‘The Good Hurt’ with a strong number.
‘Love Holds It Down’ has a bigger groove, due to a prominent bass line and a crunchy riff. Again, the hook is a very strong one, but it’s from this point on, it becomes clear that although Liberati is gifted as a songwriter, it’s his arrangements which really shine. The rhythm guitars are sharp – though never outdone by the fantastic bass work – and the drum parts are quirky, occasionally in a way which would make Stewart Copeland proud. ‘Burn’ takes those Police influences and makes them as obvious as a fist in the face. It’s a number full of hi-hats and tight drumming, which alone would be enough to warrant being likened to The Police in places, but once the track weaves its way around a fantastic bass line that’s more than reminiscent of ‘Driven To Tears’, those influences and comparisons become so, so unavoidable. Frankly, though, as far as influences go, Liberati could do far worse! The chorus brings an upbeat, jangly guitar riff, over which Liberati’s vocals are hard sounding without being aggressive.
‘Next To You’ offers something softer, with acoustic vibes overlaid with subtle electric leads. Liberati’s hushed tones have a slight Americana leaning against an atmospheric arrangement. The electric guitars and drums have a great amount of reverb and the electric piano compliments them well. The hushed vocal tones are at the other end of the scale to Dom’s louder performances on ‘We Own The Night’, but this change sits rather well among the rockier numbers. ‘Lookin’ Around’ comes with a similar laid-back quality, here capturing Liberati in a mood which would suit the under-rated Pete Droge. It’s a number which rarely breaks from an easy groove, with both Liberati’s under-stated vocal and a slide guitar solo providing the high points.
‘Won’t Let You Down’ is a mid-paced number full of staccato rhythms on the verses, which settle into fairly generic chiming guitars on the chorus. The musical approach lends itself to another Kings of Leon comparison. It’s safe, stadium rock approach makes it one of ‘The Good Hurt’s more predictable numbers, but even then, a ringing lead guitar part towards the track’s end and a rumbling bass provide some appeal on a number absolutely designed for radio. For ‘Meltdown’ a greater focus is put up on the drums with their pounding approach; over the drums, the guitars have a simple, yet fairly dominant twang. Vocally, Liberati keeps things restrained and manages not to slip into those Kings of Leon-isms on the louder moments, often being joined by a blanket of backing voices. The uber-dominant bass returns for ‘The Solution’, a number which features a great vocal, a better chorus and even better bassline, as Liberati offers something which mixes the sound of 21st century alt-rock with the quirks of late 80s hi-tech rock in the vein of Baxter Robertson (specifically the backing vocals) and ‘Power Windows’ era Rush (there’s more than a hint of Geddy Lee’s bass style throughout).
With no duff tracks and nothing which could especially be called filler material, ‘The Good Hurt’ is a very accomplished release; one which showcases a brave mix of styles without ever becoming overly flashy or outlandish. Although it plays host to plenty of top notch songs, it’s often the level of musicianship – particularly those busy basslines – which makes ‘The Good Hurt’ so good. A highly recommended listen.