Hal â€“ Hal / 2005 Rough Trade / 11 Tracks / http://www.halmusic.com / http://www.roughtraderecords.com / Reviewed 24 April 2005
Halâ€™s album is a mystery from the front cover. A montage of clip-art from the last century, in front of a white background really is the only visual tag for what is in store for the listener. What comes out when the individual puts the disc on to play is a very sixties-influenced type of music, as influenced by the Beach Boys as much as the teen idols from the period. â€œPlay the Hitsâ€ has much more in common with the cut-for-movie track â€œThat Thing You Doâ€ than any actual act. What is interesting is that Hal can continual work within the paradigm of the sixties without attempting anything that has been done before. Deciding that the green gardens of fame would be given to them given a strict adherence to what was a was a weak spot in music worldwide, it is surprising that Hal makes such a solid album. Looking to the Beatles and Pink Floyd for â€œKeep Love as Your Golden Ruleâ€, Hal take the energy from Jetâ€™s campaign to fully co-opt sixties music and create music that is at its worst ten times better than Jetâ€™s drek.
The arrangements on this album are impeccable, and tracks like â€œDonâ€™t Come Runningâ€ use a very Scissor Sisters-esque falsetto to shift the general sound of the disc onto a slightly more doo-wop path. The low-key â€œI Sat Downâ€, even with its Western piano is too anemic to properly stoke the fires that were started by the band at the beginning of the disc. â€œI Sat Downâ€ is a mid-disc lull, something that is only exacerbated by the snailâ€™s pace that starts off the hump track, â€œMy Eyes are Soreâ€. These twin tracks really challenge listeners to keep their fingers off of the fast forward buttons, and the instrumentation on â€œMy Eyes are Soreâ€ are much too Spartan to maintain a listenerâ€™s interest.
This musical equivalent to mono is problematic as Hal does not replace the chipper beginning tunes of this disc with something equally as impressive. There are not nuanced arrangements or sections of later track that just make a listener â€œwowâ€. â€œWorry about the Windâ€ struggles valiantly as the one shining example of what was right about Hal on the second half of the disc, and this disc really shows a band that might have benefited from releasing a few tracks from this disc on an EP. Perhaps next disc will have a stronger sound to it.
Top Tracks: Worry about the Wind, Play the Hits