Thursday, April 19, 2012

Review: HAL - The Time The Hour

The Time The Hour, is the long-awaited sophomore album from Dublin outfit HAL.  Their seven-year hiatus has yielded an eclectic collection of sun drenched melodies, flanked by funky bass lines and expansive string and brass arrangements, combining to create one of the most ambitious albums ever recorded in Ireland. 

Dave Allen's voice is a silken chameleon, capable of delivering smooth sunshine falsetto, forlorn existential country, and herculean harmony parts, with unbelievable ease. Bass, is the albums lynchpin behind Allen's voice, switching between complex James Jamerson-esque riffs and subtle Rick Dankoisms.  The songs are laden with instrumentation. It would seem HAL spared no expense to achieve their sonic goals.

"You don't get all magnificent sitting on your own"  declares Dave Allen, on the radio-friendly, fuzz-bass fuelled Magnificent. Single Be With You, is a feel good melting pot of sunshine Casanova jazz, suitable for wooing a lady or two. The Romanticism continues through the dainty brush strokes of Going to the City, a track which pays homage to the likes of Harry Nilsson, and Glen Campbell.  Down in the Valley, is part rock opera, part Supergrass. Imagine four young turk's fleeing hell, on bicycles, with the damsel in distress getting a crossbar to safety.

Title track Time The Hour, is a tense, atmospheric, broken relationship ballad. It ticks like a bomb into deep piano chords and frazzled violins  Many of the songs, such as Time The Hour, and Hannah, would lend themselves wonderfully to a female vocal. Time The Hour's phrasing would have suited Shirley Bassey, in her prime, perfectly. Listening to Rockin' Chairs, one could be forgiven for thinking Neil Young, had drafted in Nile Rodgers as producer, as an intricate fiddle fest gives way to beefy bass riff driven stomper. Ingeniously this track segways into an extended orchestral Beatles meets sandbox outro.  The Jamerson-esque groves continue on Y Do You Come Here, a disco ditty with a huge Gibb like falsetto section.  While Close to Her, feels like a long-lost Wilson-McCartney collaboration in four-part harmony.

This is an album for people who are serious about music, who appreciate the sound and the skill required to make it, in equal measure. It may not appeal to the chart conscious masses but, you'll be hard pressed to find a better collection of songs released in 2012. It's the Irish album of the year to date.

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