At the time of its 2001 release, Ed Harcourt’s Here Be Monsters was released to a modest amount of fanfare and expectation of great things to come, however for some reason, he’s just never enjoyed the sales that his music deserves.
Harcourt is first and foremost a great songwriter, and he’s no such on the piano either, with his compositions being ambitious, but never grandiose or overblown. He’s got a pretty decent voice too, and is able to inject genuine emotion into almost anything he sings.
In terms of quality of songwriting, Here Be Monsters is obviously a debut, but it still manages to somehow find a balance between showcasing what an exciting new talent Harcourt was, and hinting at the fact that he would grow and mature as a songwriter as his career progressed, a promise on which Harcourt has delivered in great style.
Even at this early stage in his career, Harcourt was already capable of great songs like “She Fell Into My Arms”, “Hanging With the Wrong Crowd” and the epic and brooding “Beneath the Heart of Darkness”. It’s all impressive stuff, as are the majority of the other numbers, with my personal favourite being the uncharacteristically upbeat, and almost celebratory “Shanghai”.
With Harcourt’s voice and songwriting already at an impressive level, why wasn’t Here Be Monsters the runaway success it deserved to be? Perhaps one of the reasons it didn’t result in an immediate mainstream breakthrough was that it just doesn’t flow like a lot of albums, instead it disorientates you slightly, to the point where you maybe have to concentrate a little bit more than you usually would when listening to music, which means his fans feel genuinely connected to his music. If this was intentional (which, on the strength of this year’s Furnaces, it could very well be), then this was a master-stroke on Harcourt’s part, even if, in the long term, it’s perhaps cost him a few casual fans along the way.
If you’re a fan of post-Buckley songwriters, then Ed Harcourt may be one of those names that you’ve heard, but didn’t really know where to start with. Start at the beginning and enjoy the journey.