One common occurrence in the music scene that has become mercifully rare over the last decade, is the practice of putting all of the best songs at the beginning of a record. Wisdom would say place your best song first, second best after it, and so on. However, in this age of streaming services and artistically reaching pop music, the sequencing and pace of albums has become more considered. Hidden City is a great example of why this practice has faded.
The opening track of Hidden City, Dark Energy, is fantastic. The bouncy beat, and loose guitar strumming lends the song a vibrancy and energy that is remarkable for a band that’s been active since the 80’s. Ian Astbury’s voice sounds anguished, and blends with the wailing guitars in the chorus masterfully. The song is economically structured, with a breakdown in the bridge that allows the mystical lyrics – “every soul alive / burns bright” – to evoke an immersive atmosphere. The second track, No Love Lost, relies on militaristic percussion in the verses to push towards the soaring chorus. Once again, it’s Astbury’s expressive voice that makes the song so effective.
The third track, Dance the Night, is a different beast again, with its echoing, post-punk guitar licks, and restrained chorus. It’s a fun track, but not so much as the first two. From this point onwards, the album begins a downward spiral into slower tempos, more generic textures, and samey guitar riffs. Deeply Ordered Chaos tries to evoke the grandiose atmosphere of the first two songs with introductory synth pads, but the actual song is slow and chugging, with cheesy string embellishments and overly processed guitars. The spaghetti western licks of Lilies are a misjudged attempt to add variety to the album, but the songs is too melodically similar to the rest of the back half to really add anything.
Hidden City starts off so strongly, it’s tragic that it falls apart so quickly, especially since none of the songs are particularly offensive on their own. It’s when taken together that their collective blandness becomes apparent, and the superiority of the opening two tracks casts its shadow. As a shorter release, like an EP, Hidden City would have been strong, but as a full length album, it just doesn’t have the staying power of The Cult’s best work.