Educating Omand - Year 3: The Dear Hunter

In an effort to further her musical education, Susan Omand has been set "homework" of listening to albums released after the 1980s that she has missed out on. This week she discovers The Meaning of, And All Things Regarding Ms. Leading...

Find the full list of albums for Educating Omand: Year 3 here

You know when you get to the end of a really good film and you’re utterly exhausted by the drama of it all? That’s what The Dear Hunter Acts albums do for me.

Thanks to last year’s #EducatingOmand the band The Dear Hunter isn’t new to me and, having listened to Act I then (read my review here,) I knew what to expect this time out. To recap slightly, the Acts project is a pre-planned six-part story concept by singer/songwriter Casey Cresenzo, set at the start of the 20th century and chronicling the birth, life and sudden death of a boy, known only as The Dear Hunter, born to a prostitute known only as Ms Terri.

Act II sees the story progress from the death of Ms. Terri. Her son travels to a nearby brothel in the hopes of learning more about his mother and the life she lived as a prostitute, as he himself was the product of her profession. He finds love himself with a prostitute named Ms. Leading, but the relationship falls apart due to his inability to cope with her work.

This time there are 15 songs on the album instead of just eight in the previous Act and, at almost 80 minutes, it does feel like a feature film, with simple but effective musical themes carrying through from track to track, slowly building the narrative. As individual songs, each is very different from its neighbour, with tracks that, separately, remind me of Coldplay, Green Day, ELO, even traditional mariachi, Spanish opera and sweetie adverts (yes Oracles on the Delphi Express, I’m looking at you for sounding like the Mr Soft Trebor Softmints ad* from back in the day) but it is the ability to transition so smoothly between these disparate styles that impresses so much. That and, of course, Cresenzo’s voice which is just stunning. I found myself wondering if he was classically trained as a singer because he can get so much force into his vocal without it sounding, well, forced. Honestly, he could sing the phone book and it would sound amazing.

But this isn’t just an album of songs, it is a concept as a whole and, as that whole, there was a lot of depth if not a lot of distance covered by the narrative. The virtual character-building, however, was absolutely superb, painting vivid pictures in my head of all the people involved**. So am I educated this time? Yes, in that it has proven to me that, following on from last year, this band and this concept just gets better and better.

I’ve been trying to choose a “favourite song” that best illustrates the work this time and I had it narrowed down to two – either Smiling Swine, which is so much Mr Blue Sky it’s almost painful and has the absolute best lyric ever in “He broke the scene, a Machiavellian dandelion Blissfully plucked from the bloom of another”. Or this one, Blood of the Rose, which only wins because of the Mariachi trumpets and a feeling that it could have stepped straight out of Bizet’s Carmen.

* The advert used the 1974 song Mr Soft by Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, a band much more famous for their song from the next year, Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me).

** so much so that I had to physically paint a sketch of how Ms Leading appeared to me in my head.

Album cover image - Amazon

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