Single Review: The Heartbreaks – Absolved

By on Thursday, 8th May 2014 at 12:00 pm

The more time I spend in the North, the more I come to fully embrace the Northerner’s way of living. After this extended interview with Boy Jumps Ship of Newcastle at Liverpool Sound City last week, it was impressed on me further on the Northern musician’s commitment to honesty, hard work and no compromise. This is also true of Morecambe band the Heartbreaks, whose musical evolution we’ve been eyeing and keeping close tabs on here at TGTF Towers since the release of the epic-sounding ‘¡No Pasarán!’ last autumn.

‘Absolved’ is their next single coming out in a few weeks, following on from single ‘Hey, Hey Lover’ that dropped in February. The man himself Steve Lamacq famously announced on his 6music programme 3 months ago when the group were live in session with him at Western House that if the new song did not make it onto the channel’s playlist, he’d resign from the BBC. Them’s fighting words, Lammo! While ‘Absolved’ also exhibits quite a bit of bombast in sound that was first witnessed in the big reveal of ‘¡No Pasarán!’, the lyrics and the promo video that was released to the wild Tuesday night are even more impressive.


When you queue up the video, out of a blinding white light comes four nattily-dressed figures that the band themselves quite self-deprecatingly note as “The four best dancers at St. Bernadette’s (with the worst reputations)”. (North West wit, that is.) Like the Beatles in 1963, they sure clean up nice. Dressed with red bowties and silver foil blazers, the gold lame suit-wearing Elvis would have certainly have approved of their ostentatious outfits. The Heartbreaks take full advantage of the’60s r&b groove stompathon they’ve concocted for ‘Absolved’ with what I am sure was a carefully choreographed dance move sequence replete with arm and hand flourishes not seen since the Temptations and the Four Tops. In a way, though, I find the video may detract from the actual meaning of the song, which was able to delve further into after the band kindly sent the full lyrics to me while I’ve been on holiday in Sheffield.

Not surprisingly for a band who prides themselves on being a pop group, ‘Absolved’ is a love song on the surface; however, true to form when it comes to those witty Lancastrians, there is a deeper undercurrent: depression. From the word go, Matthew Whitehouse’s singing of drummer Joe Kondras’ lyrics manages to distill how loneliness feels when you’re emotionally disconnected to a depressed partner: “I feel winter / in the apparent warmth of your embrace / and desperation / lingers around this empty space”. As the song goes on to the pre-chorus, Whitehouse sings of understanding feeling blue and suicidal because he’s felt it before himself (“you’re not the only one who’s ever felt this way / you live like you’re waiting to die”) and there is a feeling of helplessness because he fully understands what she is going through, having been there at the lowest of lows before. But at the same time he recognises he cannot change her mind: when someone is clinically depressed and has not sought out professional help, it’s near impossible to convince them of anything positive. You can say it’s a nice day when the sun’s shining outside, but all that person sees is darkness.

He wishes that things were different, or at least were back to a happier time, asking, “why don’t you give living a try?” But deep down, he’s aware his efforts are for nowt. It’s interesting how in this song, Kondras’ concerns are squarely on his partner, how he’s dealing with his own guilt in not being able to help her and how her pain affects him badly. ‘Absolved’ is in direct contrast to the Crookes‘When You’re Fragile’ (from April 2014’s ‘Soapbox’), another song in which both people in a relationship have bonded over depression, but writer Daniel Hopewell strangely and somewhat callously revels in his partner’s sorrow (“if it don’t hurt, it ain’t worthwhile / I love you most when you’re fragile”) with no interest in really helping the situation.

The crux, then, of writer Kondras’ use of the word ‘Absolved’ as the title and in the song is a less literal translation of the Biblical washing away of one’s sins and instead of him wanting to wash himself of himself of this situation where he cannot help here and he has also failed her as a friend and lover, as best explained in the chorus:

Absolved I am,
From the guilt of all the feelings,
That you don’t understand,
“Absolved” I cry,
From the guilt of all the feelings,
That hit me when I catch your eye.

Incredibly catchy? Yes. Emotionally charged? Yes. Massive in sound? Yes. All in all, a brilliant single and quite possibly the best song to be released in 2014. No wonder Lammo was willing to put his job on the line for this song.


‘Absolved’, the Heartbreaks’ forthcoming single, is due out on the 26th of May. Second album ‘We May Yet Stand a Chance’ follows a week later, on the 2nd of June.

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