Northern poet and spoken word performer Equinox releases his debut album. Aided by the cream of independent artists (and one household name), It’s Hard To Be Happy When Your Head Is Full Of Sin is a disturbing yet exhilarating listen. Simon Tucker reviews.
OK. So I have to be honest here. I have to break all normal review “rules” as I know Equinox. I’ve known him since his first book was released. I’ve kept a keen eye on his career to date and was so excited to hear he was putting his words to music as they way his poetry reads lends itself to soundscapes and musical accompaniment. Things got even more exciting when the track list was revealed. Not only has Equinox managed to pull together a stunning who’s-who of the independent scene (many of whom have been reviewed on this website) he has also managed to bag a contribution by none other than Vince Clarke. Yep, THAT Vince Clark him of Depeche Mode, Erasure, Yazoo fame.
It’s Hard To Be Happy When Your Head Is Full of Sin is suitably schizophrenic. Whilst the poetry of Equinox hovers around similar subject matter throughout (human failings, depression, suicide, broken promises) the music that accompanies it varies from song to song with only the fact that everyone involved pays utmost respect to the words being the one consistent throughout.
Scattered throughout the album are moments of deep and dark ambient (Goodnight Vienna feat. Vince Clarke) glorious Chris and Cosey sleaze disco (the wonderful Kiss feat. Feral Five) and stunningly beautiful cosmic soundscapes (How It Is – JAYmix – feat. Jay Stansfield).
It’s Hard To Be Happy…plays out like the chapters in a book mainly down to the excellent running order as you get a glorious scene setter in Help Me Please (feat. Ashley Reaks) and the sudden opening chapter of the aforementioned Kiss before we start to settle into the dark heart of the piece with the cavernous gloom of Goodbye (feat. Dementio13) and the resigned and melancholic piano-led piece Somebody Too (feat. Rosie Bans). Things take a left turn as we approach the wonderful Mule (feat. Nat Lyon) which serves as one of the biggest shocks here as on the face of it we are treated to a more traditional style of song structure and instrumentation. It is only after a few listens do you realise this is anything but “normal” and is in case a masterclass of structure and melody.
It’s Hard To be Happy…is a wonderful debut that serves as a reminder that music in the end is about community. The fact that Equinox has managed to pull all these wonderful people together and then created a cohesive and linear album is truly to be applauded. The album may shine a light on the more unsettling sides of human nature but you leave the album feeling rather uplifted and eager to listen again.
An incredibly strong debut by one of the new stars on the spoken word scene, It’s Hard To Be Happy…signposts a bright future for Equinox and everyone involved in its creation.