Glen Hansard - Rhythm and Repose
- By Tom Noonan -
- Jun 21, 2012
It’s been over half a decade since 'Once' took the Sundance Film festival by storm and lined up Glen Hansard, along with his co-star in the film and collaborator Markéta Irglová, to win an Academy Award for Best Original Song for their lovechild ‘Falling Slowly’. The success of the film, along with the fiction meets reality romance between Hansard and Irglová, provided Hansard, an already successful musician in his native country of Ireland, with the well deserved exposure his previous work never claimed. People were so fascinated with the story behind the movie that his previous work was scoured for hints of genius.
Just over five years later, Once has been adapted into a Tony-winning musical whose success is just as unlikely as the film’s. The play uses the original songs written by Hansard and Irglová, but the real-life love story hidden amongst those songs is gone. Hansard and his former co-star ended their relationship in 2009, and in 2012 Hansard is releasing an album on his own for the first time.
On ‘Rhythm and Repose’, we find Hansard attempting to break from this public love story by creating something that is completely his own. On two of the first four tracks, this need for departure is glaringly evident. On ‘Talking With the Wolves’, the albums second, and most incoherent, track, he manages to turn what could be an acoustic Postal Service B-Side into an awkward Jack White impression when he inexplicably breaks into an electric guitar solo. It doesn’t last long, but its timing could not be more damaging to the song as a whole.
Hansard goes on to utilize a somewhat quiet, yet completely unhelpful, banjo on the album’s fourth track ‘High Hope’. Again, they play a small roll in the song, but their presence causes a moment of realization that Hansard is trying hastily to make this album distinctive from his past work. It just ends up being somewhat alienating and causes a disconnection from the record for the listener.
As the album goes on, however, Hansard’s approach seems to change, and the melancholy urgency that made Once such a great film comes back into focus. The albums two strongest tracks, ‘Storm, It’s Coming’ and ‘What Are We Gonna Do’, are plot heavy musings on stories we have yet to be told. This seems to be Hansard’s comfort zone, but it is also where his songwriting is the strongest. He has the ability to tell a simple story with incomparable emotional depth. Even on his own, this capacity remains intact.
Near the end of the album, Hansard finally reflects on the past five years singing, “Oh how we sucked in the limelight/And left best friends behind”, but this line, and song, falls particularly flat. I waited for the song, ‘Races’, in which this line is found, to build in a way his other great tracks had, but it never made it there. It seems that Glen Hansard is at his best when he’s telling us stories, not reflections, and it doesn’t matter if they’re true. All that matters is that, to him, they’re beautiful.
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