|Hal | CD review | 2005|
HAL - Hal (Rough
Trade - April 2005)
There's a certain irony in the fact that several Hal songs refer to the wind and the rain, for the Irish quartet's debut album possesses a summery feel not present in music since 2003, when Rough Trade labelmates Delays made everyone throw open their windows and sing along to the glorious Hey Girl.
With this and such striking vocal harmonies courtesy of the Brothers Allen, Beach Boys comparisons are, of course, inevitable - as demonstrated by Xfm-championed singles Worry About The Wind and What A Lovely Dance. But as forthcoming release Play The Hits promises, the Hal boys have many more tricks remaining up their collective sleeve, and while their instantly infectious third single has gained an impressive amount of airplay, it's lesser-known tracks such as I Sat Down, Don't Come Running and Keep Love As Your Golden Rule which suggest that the foursome can look forward to a long and lustrous career.
Hal have an obvious flair for awe-inspiring instrumentation and rhythm, and an enviable knack for writing unique and thought-provoking lyrics. As such, it's easy to miss at first the subtleties which lie within; whether it's the twinkles, tambourine and electronic fuzz of Play The Hits or the slightly quirky but simply lovely lyrics of Don't Come Running ("to a city street and a little room without a view"), even on your 50th listen you'll still spot something which escaped your notice during the previous 49 plays.
It's an impressively eclectic album, where the country twang of Don't Come Running sits easily alongside Beatles-influenced numbers such as the layered masterpiece that is I Sat Down - where an insistent piano and bass intro give way to a Travis-esque banjo, before second verse strings turn the song from Flowers In The Window into Eleanor Rigby and back again.
And lest we forget the utterly gorgeous Keep Love As Your Golden Rule with its unashamed glowing positivity: "Don't listen to what they say; keep going, you've come all this way", "count your many blessings" and, still more fittingly, "sunbeams will shine; they'll give you light in the dark."
It seems to have taken an inordinate amount of time, but
summer is here at last. Hallelujah.
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