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Album Review

In 2009 the Irish trio known as The Script had a breakthrough hit in America with the song "Breakeven." "When a heart breaks," frontman Danny O'Donoghue told us, "it don't break even."

Since then, things apparently haven't changed much for the band, lyrically speaking, when it comes to breaking hearts. At only a small risk of oversimplifying, I can sum up The Script's sophomore Science & Faith effort in two words: Love hurts.

Though the band sports an easy-on-the-ears pop-rock sensibility reminiscent of  LifehouseTrain and Five for Fighting, The Script's reflections on love gone awry—or love just gone—are seldom as upbeat as those from its radio-friendly contemporaries. Instead, what we get is a collection of mournful tunes as mercilessly melancholy as a steel-gray Dublin winter, with only occasional glimpses of the sun piercing the clammy emotional fog.

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Pro-social Content

On the title track, a woman tries to convince her too-rational male partner that science alone cannot explain the mystery of love ("You won't find faith or hope down a telescope/You won't find heart and soul in the stars/You can break everything down to chemicals/But you can't explain a love like ours"). "You Won't Feel a Thing" romantically—and sacrificially—promises to protect a woman from all possible pains. "'Cause I will take it on the chin for you/So lay your cuts and bruises over my skin/I promise you won't feel a thing/ … You know, dear, that I would die for you."

A couple who spend a night talking and mending their differences (over alcohol, unfortunately) feel as if they've just met "For the First Time." A lovelorn man promises a woman who's left him that he'll always leave a light on and a key under the mat ("If You Ever Come Back"). And a similarly heartsick narrator on "Love Gone and Moved On" eventually begins to make peace with the fact that his lady ain't comin' back.

Objectionable Content

Given the band's adult contemporary sound, I was surprised to stumble upon the s-word on "For the First Time." It's repeated in the chorus three times: "But we're gonna start by drinking cheap old bottles of wine/S‑‑‑ talking, up all night." (The s-word is traded out with "sit" on the song's radio edit.) 

Speaking of drinking, alcohol is an emotional anesthetic in the wake of romantic disappointment on several tracks. "Nothing" involves a man getting drunk and then unwisely dialing his ex … repeatedly. When she doesn't answer, he crosses the threshold from annoying to stalking and goes to her house—despite his friends' attempts to stop him ("Every drunk step I take leads me to her door"). He pitifully hopes her pity will be enough to resurrect the relationship: "If she sees how much I'm hurting/She'll take me back for sure." She doesn't.

Depression and possible substance abuse mingle even more bleakly on "Exit Wounds," which reads, "I've got all the baggage/The drink, the pills/Yeah, this is living/But without the will/I'm blacking out, I'm shutting down/You've left a hole when you walked out/ … And I'm dying, dying from these exit wounds." And one step more dramatic than that is "Dead Man Walking," which compares the aftermath of a breakup to death: "Already see it in your face/Already someone in my place/Am I breathing? Talking?/Dead man walking." Similar imagery permeates "Bullet From a Gun," which metaphorically likens a relational split to being shot and killed by the one he loves.

The woman on "Walk Away" perseveres in a relationship that's obviously unhealthy, one that her man has profanely warned her against: "'Cause if you're looking for heaven, baby, it sure as h‑‑‑ ain't me."

Summary Advisory

"Love Hurts," an oft-covered ode to heartache and heartbreak first recorded by The Everly Brothers in 1960 and made most famous by Nazareth in 1975, is a theme that pop music never grows tired of. Maybe that's because the collision of hope and disappointment is among life's most universal experiences. As long as musicians keep loving and losing, they'll keep writing songs about the emotional fallout that wafts down like soft volcanic ash in the wake of their romantic eruptions.

I've pined away to my fair share of such tunes in my time, as I'm sure most of us have. (Read " Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: The Romantic Angst of Teen Pop" for more on that.) I suspect it's because these songs offer the illusion of solace and catharsis. But I've become convinced that such lovelorn offerings—like the majority of those The Script has given us on Science & Faith—also prolong the pain.

Plot Summary

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Debuted at No. 3.

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January 18, 2011

On Video

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Adam R. Holz

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