Modern Love & Death
This album approaches greatness.
Sometimes a CD arrives in your mailbox from a band you’ve never heard of before. But when you put it in your player you could swear they were making all their music just for you. It’s one of the pleasures of the occasional music reviewer.
I knew Hail Social was going to be one of those bands from the moment I heard the clapped-out drum machine sound that introduces the first song, “Annabelle.” It shouldn’t be such a shock.
According to the bio, singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/co-producer Dayve Hawk grew up in the 1980s, in New Jersey. “Think arcades, pine-trees, strip malls and the ocean” it says.
Hawk is younger than me, I grew up in Palo Alto and our malls were a little more upscale, but basically that’s my childhood, too. And his band plays the kind of melodic, synth-heavy boing-bop which sticks them right onto my favorite play list.
I want to believe kids who don’t have much use for Beyonce will be sticking this in their newfangled iPods. The way I hid from the likes of The Scorpions by slipping a little Daryl Hall and John Oates into my Walkman, back in the day.
Hawk’s vocals make excellent use of multi-tracking and synthesizer effects to give his voice, which sounds to me like a less-operatic Freddie Mercury, a haunting immediacy.
The best example of this after “Annabelle” is “All Night,” which is all about spending the title listening to the radio. This is the kind of unadorned idea for a song which could lead you to expect nothing more golden than your average Stock Aitken Waterman hit. Not that those weren’t golden themselves. But Hawk makes you remember, vividly, the time when knowing someone was listening to the same radio station as you was a way of falling in love.
“One U Love” starts out as, and more or less is, the age-old weaselly lover’s complaint: “I don’t want to be the only one you love/Give me just the night.” But the bouncy music and timid vocal combine to give you the idea the subject does, at least, have a good reason for taking the easy way out. To coin a phrase.
Are there hesitations? Sure there are, there always are. I worry that the skills of Hawk and his collaborators (Matt Maraldo on drums, percussion and programming and Dan Henry on bass) are on the edge of facileness. Which they are.
But just as I’m worrying about them falling over that edge into superficiality, along comes the atmospheric, album-ending “The Way It Is.” By the time the tightly-compressed synth riff kicks in, I’m sure again. This album approaches greatness.
Polyvinyl Records: www.polyvinylrecords.com