This is a review of "The First Word Is The Hardest" recorded by four day Hombre. The review was written by Lauren Strain in 2006.
I have tried to review this song in many different ways. I have sat myself down, at a desk, with a pen in my hand, a pad, a hifi system and an open window. Nothing. I have flicked around for hours on the computer, fastforwarding and rewinding that arresting, disturbing, beautiful piece of film they’ve created to accompany it. Nothing. I have altered the mix levels of each channel of sound on every component of every audio device I own (admittedly, this totals only two, and one of them is broken). Nothing. I have flopped into bed at 3am in the pitch dark with headphones on but then realised that I could not see to write. I have thus spent a great deal of time daydreaming about how amazing it would be to have a kind of machine that you could attach to your brain’s nerve endings maybe via some sort of fancy electronic headset which would receive signals and transmit your every tiny jumbled thought down a collection of wires which would be tied to biros scribbling down earnestly all the nonsensical snippets of syllables plopped out by your mental processes. You could then sift and read through them all later, rearranging them and going “Aaaaoowwwhh, so THAT’s what I was thinking!” ‘Cause right now, I haven’t got a clue what to say about this gloriously, horrifyingly glacial monument of a song. Except maybe that. But that sounded a bit overblown… and just not enough. So, if you would be so lenient, ladies and gentlemen, please insert a short, sharp inhalation of trepidation here. Are you with me? I’m gonna give this a try…
‘The First Word Is The Hardest’ is a song about senses, about communication and about that soft, empathetic humanity felt between strangers who are closer than they’ll ever know or dare to admit. Every single sound seems like it’s calling out your name, from the barely-perceptible, running, skipping basslines to the thundercrashes beginning at 03:02 and then being strangled out of existence from 03:31 onwards. Complete with a gradual, black-and-white avalanche of drums, palatial, spatial guitars and a voice that sounds like it’s holding out a bare hand, clasping your face, running its fingertips over your eyelids to put you to sleep and raise every hair on your neck, it’s beautiful. But not exaggerated. Its beauty is in its withdrawal, its retraction, its retreat. It never quite gives itself away – that niggling snippet of melody you can hear mewing and begging, at the back of your mind, to be heard will not arrive. Instead, four day Hombre lead you up their snowdune slopes, through their rough scrub, over their soft sheens of mountain streams, under their storms and their calms and then leave you: dangling, somewhere near the top, upside down, unable to see the peak but aware that it’s just there beyond your clasp. Perhaps they’re terrified of falling too soon or too late, or perhaps they’re scared of reaching that height – even though they know they could, if they wanted to – for fear of what may happen, or. Either way, they give you vertigo.
Then there’s near-silence, as we cut back to Simon Wainwright, alone, and a glowing, opaque wave of grey noise. It leaves you feeling, on the one hand, warmed and placated; but at the same time, somehow, that everything is unfinished and everything is waiting. They freeze the breath in your throat whilst it’s still trying to search for something more. I suppose, though, that that’s the way everyone feels about the end of something. It’s finished, but it shouldn’t be. It’s probably good that it’s over, but yet it still feels so wrong. And so, whilst Wainwright’s last gasps will heal a few with comforting, accepting sighs, in the background you can hear bits of icy metal crashing apart and the infrequent scream of some marine-like feedback as the fissures appear in the deep-sea bottom of other people’s worlds. And so the cycle begins again; and so life revolves, unresolved; and so the first word is the hardest, but the last one never is.