They begin with some of the most bleakly, delicately desolate songs like "Stitched to My Heart" and "When we Reach the Hill" and proceed to play most of both "1" and "2". The music shies away from Nick Cave's morbidness, Tom Waits' sleaziness or Mercury Rev's weirdness and yet it sounds a bit like all of them. The difference is that this is unashamedly sad. Heartbreaking. It is sadness unmediated, publicly disclosed, deeply personal but dissected for our pleasure (if that's the right word) and laid out for inspection. Yet it is somehow easy not to cringe watching someone that EXPOSED. There is no glamour or hysteria on stage, they are one of those bands you wouldn't fancy or envy or want to be like them---this is too introspective and it's all about music. Perhaps Pall Jenkins cultivates the bearded hippy look (think Fast Show's Dr. Dexter) on purpose, almost as a disguise, a sole barrier to his 'real' personality.
Metal sheet, violin bow, eerie samples, sparse guitar, punctuated drumming, crystalline piano...it's all there as you'd expect, creating folky lullabies and weirded-out film noir soundtracks. It's not the eight-people extravaganza they put on during some of their shows but it doesn't matter---the stage wouldn't be big enough anyway. And what a voice Pall Jenkins has...I never thought I'd use this verb but it literally soars on songs like "Release My Heart" or the personal favourite "A Light so Dim". Live, the haunting quality (another cliche, thank you) isn't really amplified and the songs don't sound as fragile as on record (although I could swear I heard someone going 'ssssshhhhh' during "Your Church is Red"). Nevertheless, it is finely crafted and precise---until it all dissolves into a wash of noise during the closing song "A Heart the Size of a Horse".
BHP walk a tightrope between plaintive melancholy and crass sentimentality but thankfully always stay on the right side. It's probably the sadness and the faint menace that keeps them far enough from being sickly sweet. Wandering out into the cold night in a mild alcoholic haze, I feel bruised. Square old heart, indeed. (Radiant Kovacs)