HAL - Hal (Rough Trade)
Irish brothers David and Paul Allen formed Hal with their mate Stephen O’Brien and then proceeded to write a collection of songs that hark back to the classic pop tunes of the late 70’s. Bands such as Beach Boys and The Eagles, with a smattering of Beautiful South, come to mind when listening to this album, and these bands are a huge influence on the way that these songs come across. As with the Thrills, you would not know that this band were Irish had I not told you, and their love for American AOR shines through in their songs. ‘Play The Hits’ was produced by Edwyn Collins, and should have been a hit single, with its singalong chorus and youthful energy, but they can also write a ballad as affecting as ‘Keep Love As Your Golden Rule’ to follow it. ‘Don’t Come Running’ has harmony vocals that come straight from late period Beach Boys on another joyously upbeat song. ‘Worry About The Wind’ and ‘Coming Right Over’ are two more examples of the band at their best, on subtle ballads which mix in melodic tunes and a memorable chorus. ‘Satisfied’ and ‘Slow Down (You’ve Got A Friend)’ also prove that the band can tug at the heartstrings with classic love songs. It might seem odd that a band so young have taken their lead from bands who had broken up before they were born, but good music never dies and it has obviously seeped through their formative years and helped form their outlook on life. Some might find this album just a little too sickly sweet, but the Thrills managed to pull off more or less the same idea, and so it must prove that there is an audience who crave the lost art of ‘proper songwriting’. If it is done well, as this is, there will always be a place in the vast spectrum of popular music for an album of this quality.