See our Best of Detroit 2020 winners.

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Here Be Monsters

Posted By on Wed, Apr 17, 2002 at 12:00 AM

We should all be grateful that people are learning how to make musical records again, grown-up, beautiful pop records, full of melody and ache, sensitivity and attention. Within the last year we’ve seen Brendan Benson, Rufus Wainwright, Departure Lounge and the Czars; releases full of sonic adventure that rely on craft and imagination instead of pure volume.

This is Ed Harcourt’s first release in the States after spending the last year charming the knickers off most of Europe. Here Be Monsters has one of the prettiest opening moments in pop music. “Spider has eight legs, you know,” Harcourt whispers in your ear, supported by acoustic guitar and music box vibes, “Spins its web, the patterns flow.” By the time the organ and clanging electric guitar come in, Harcourt has set out his stall as a sweet pop melancholic with an adventurous sense of arrangement and nursery-rhyme charm.

And it’s a brave album to make. The melody-led songcraft and intelligent romanticism range from show tune camp to the naked menace of bare bowed basses and growling, roomy organs. Beautifully arranged muted trumpets and pianos and lovingly recorded vocals are allowed the space to breathe. At 23, Harcourt is an accomplished polymusical wunderkind, but his greatest achievement has been assembling this beautiful band where everyone knows when to shut up. Amazing. At times it’s reminiscent of Mercury Rev’s epic Deserters’ Songs’ gentle sadness, and includes a spot of Dave Fridmann vocals on the charming “Birds Fly Backwards.” Other moments borrow elegantly from Bacharach or Joplin, while “Beneath the Heart of Darkness” slowly climbs the high dive to plunge into sonic chaos.

Music should be allowed to be musical once in a while, and pop music owes it to itself to be ambitious, or it deserves whatever it gets. “Let’s make the big time/aiming to climb high.” Oh, yes.

E-mail Shireen Liane at


We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.

More by Shireen Liane

Read the Digital Print Issue

January 27, 2020

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2021 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation