‘The Hurting Kind’ – John Paul White

Each song on John Paul White’s album The Hurting Kind (April 12th on Single Lock) is its own hurting kind. White is careful not to equate romantic love as the only thing that hurts but rather leaving it open to all things, whether that be time moving on and the hurt of looking back on what you have idealised, or the hurt of being stuck in silence because words allude you.

The beautiful love song ‘I Wish I Could Write You a Song’ is just that. It is the want to tell someone how much you love them but being unable to put it into words.It’s a kind of purgatory of silence, and that in and of itself hurts.

I wish you could climb in my heart/ Down where the real feelings are/ You’d hear a real work of art

It’s that feeling of being without words or a language that truly describes how you feel. It is therefore saying everything but the thing you want to say.

 I wish I could come up with words/ Words the world’s never heard

The Hurting Kind takes you back to that sonic landscape of when country music was dramatic. With big orchestral arcs that open your eyes to the beauty, and slow waltzes that leave you with your heart firmly stamped on. There are flickers of Glen Campbell’s sprawling and quietly euphoric country music and Kris Kristofferson’s love-sick songs of relationships in the final moments just before you disentangle forever. There are even moments of George Jones’ ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’ on the meandering and punch-to-the-gut ‘You Lost Me’. But, before you get too comfortable with the past, its inequalities and the hurt that undoubtedly comes along with it, White pulls you out of it and pushes you towards the bright lightsof the future. Like old photographs, left to grow yellow and curled around the edges in an album or dusty, out of date clothes left hanging in a wardrobe, White reassures us that it is okay to revisit the past from time-to-time but that it is not a place to dwell too long in.

‘The Good Old Days’ is a warning to those who wish to stay in the past, with White singing the line “What’s so good about the good old days?” over and over as if to reiterate the truth of this sentiment.

The past is ash in front of us/ Our best days are in front of us

The song is twofold. It’s about the hurt of those who are trying to stay in the past because they believe this is the best it is ever going to be. Slowly stagnating against the inevitable tides of change. But it is also about the hurt those people are inflicting on those who are hurtling towards the bright lights and equal footing of their own ‘good old days’. It is essentially a line being drawn between what was and what is.

It’s taken oh so long/ For the world to start to understand/ The true and equal worth/ Of every woman and every man

Politics is in turmoil. The world is hurting. Everything is amplified, for better or worse. Art can offer us an alternative way of looking at the world. It can give a voice to the hurt and to the marginalised. It can show us a way through the chaos that is all around us, and it can give us a way to make sense of our inner and outer worlds.

‘Yesterday’s Love’ is the inner world of holding onto what has already gone. A slow dance around a deserted dance floor, clinging onto one another, until you look up and realise you are all alone.

The song is like a chameleon, changing colour depending on how the light falls on it, looking different in the shadows than it does in the sun. Is it about the futility and disappointment in trying to recapture what has already gone, the crying over spilt milk, and the bitter sweetness that invariably follows as the love grows and changes shape? Or is it about the loss of love altogether, a love that was once bright, but which has now been snuffed out and the flippant acceptance of the end?

Yesterday’s love won’t heal today’s heart/ How good it was won’t change how things are/ For the sake of tomorrow, let’s just give up/ While we can remember yesterday’s love/ Oh let me remember yesterday’s love

In a recent Paste Magazine interview White said he had the title for the title track ‘The Hurting Kind’ for a long time before it became a song, and that after writing it he soon realised it was a story of abuse from a female perspective. The prescriptive narrative or ‘which ex is this song about?’ game, normally suffocates a song as it leaves the artistic womb, but in this case, the specificity becomes all too familiar and universal.

Careful, careful, what you’re wishing for/ You just might get all of it and more

The opening eight bars of echoing and delicate guitar picking, like raindrops falling softly against a window pane, sets the mood for what is to become one of the saddest songs on the album. Sad in its resignation of no hope and of the understanding or perhaps misunderstanding that love is always going to hurt, whilst also kind of knowing deep down that love doesn’t have to hurt.

I know, I know love is hard to find/ But your love is the hurting kind/ Oh your love may be all mine/ But your love’s the hurting kind

The ‘Other’ in the song is never fleshed out and that just adds to the hurt. A shadowy faceless figure. No accusations or blame are apportioned to him. It is merely his love that is doing the damage; that he is perhaps the other person’s idea of love personified.

Oh, what a wicked world and all its fairy tales/ Making me long for love and to fall under itself/ Well, that’s what happened/ When I looked into your yes

The Hurting Kind gathers up all the hurt like loose threads, tying each to its own balloon, and with each listen, the hurt is excavated and let go.

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