Review: Jack Foley
IRELAND'S finest new exports, Hal, cite everyone from Van Morrison
to Brian Wilson as influences that help them to deliver their
classic yet quirky 70s west-coast pop-influenced sound.
The result is a debut album of shimmering brilliance that looks
at love in all its many forms - from the joy and intoxication
of those initial giddy feelings, through to the heartbreak that
can sometimes follow.
Tracks such as Play The Hits (the band's most recent
single) effortlessly sum up the joy of first becoming smitten,
thereby hitting the listener with some really great melodies and
a genuinely upbeat chorus.
Think Beach Boys mixed with the more contemporary likes of The
La's There She Goes and you're someway close to imagining
the sheer joy to be had in singing along.
Play The Hits probably rates among the finest tracks
on the long-player, cleverly mixing Dave Allen’s easygoing
vocals with the harmonies of his brother, Paul.
But elsewhere there's still plenty to admire, from the multi-layered
opening ballad (and former single), What A Lovely Dance,
to the deeply poignant Keep Love As Your Golden Rule
(which contains some truly beautiful lyrics and some subtle strings).
The quirky sound of the band is best demonstrated in moments
such as the epic My Eyes Are Sore, which soars as high
as some of the Polyphonic Spree's best efforts while simultaneously
conjuring memories of the free-loving Seventies.
And comparisons with another Irish band of the moment, The Thrills,
are sure to be found in tracks such as I Sat Down, which
tosses in some excellent banjo.
Indeed, it is a feature of the album that the music is wildly
diverse, seldom afraid to introduce new instruments into the mix,
while changing the vocal style at several points.
It serves to ensure that the album never outstays its welcome,
even if it doesn't always deliver what's expected.
Yet with further highlights including the wonderfully wistful
Fools By Your Side and another former single, the country-tinged
Worry About The Wind, in which Allen's vocals adopt a
falsetto style, the album always delivers something to amaze.
Hal's debut effort is, therefore, a nostalgic throwback to days
gone by that can't fail to leave you smiling. It will almost certainly
rate as one of the albums of the year.