Thursday, 26 May 2016

Private Eyes: I like a Hall & Oates album

I haven't listened to any other Hall & Oates albums. This one however...

I heard the title track and the funky 'I Can't Go For That', and I was really drawn to the sound. The songs weren't as swathed in eighties synths as their more famous hits from later in the decade. Eventually I figured out the songs I liked were off the one album so I checked out the whole thing.

As with my other music reviews, there will be little discussion of musical technique. I am completely illiterate when it comes to this stuff (and after this review, I'm sure some people will say the same about my musical taste). 

Enough rambling. Let's dive in.

'Private Eyes' starts the album at a gallop. One of H&O's most memorable tunes. No real need to go into it, it's a great song. Next!

'Looking for a Good Sign' is clearly designed to evoke classic Motown, and is a solid homage performed with a great sense of vervc. The reason why I like it is that unlike so many covers of soul classics, H&O don't try to directly ape the style of those old hits -- instead of female backing, they just do their usual backing vocals. It means the song evokes the past without feeling like a poor carbon copy.  

'I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)' might be my favourite track on the album. Over a glistening keyboard bottom, Daryl Hall delivers one of his best blue-eyed soul vocals. The song has a light disco edge, but there is an edge to it which prevents it from tipping over into schmaltz. It's a slight melancholic dance number, and the closest thing to a slow jam on the record.

'Mano a Mano' is positive pop. It's a bit too light for me. I forgot it about 5 seconds after it ended.

'Did It in a Minute' sounds like a parody of H&O. I didn't like it. Shows what I know it -- it was a big hit.

'I can't even be bothered getting through 'Head Above Water'. I tried three times and gave up. Made me regret this review.

For roughly the first 30 seconds, 'Tell Me What You Want' begs you to turn it off. Filtering the song through some kind of distortion, it sounds like H&O are broadcasting from a radio station in 1937. And then the song kicks into gear. It's a fun tune with an infectious chorus. The lyrics are a bit dark and manic, but that blunts what could have been an overly sugary tune. In other words, it's a terrific piece of pop, circa 1981.

'Friday Let Me Down' continues the resurgence with a raucous party tune about a bad party. Continuing the theme of the previous song, this combines a rather depressing lyric with an uplifting melody. It's a sweet'n'sour approach that accounts for most of the songs on this album.

Following the same theme, 'Unguarded Minute' is about letting your guard down for love. It feels like the kind of song I like at first, but I grow to really love some time down the road.

'Your Imagination' is great. Packing a slightly heavier bottom, and a weird synth keyboard motif running endlessly under the whole thing, this is up there with 'Private Eyes' and 'I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)' as one of the album's highlights.

'Some Men' is a breakdown of various masculine stereotypes (beer-drinking machos, playboys, mamma's boys). It's a weird song, with lyrics I had a little trouble focusing on. I guess it's about how not all guys are jerks? I dunno. I'll have to let it sit for awhile.

Overall thoughts? It's a really good album. It's darker than I expected, and not as drenched in synths as other eighties pop. Based off of this, I would definitely dive into another H&O joint.

And thus this slightly awkward review comes to an end. The Midnight Ramble will return very soon with another review.

You'll like it. It's a Black comedy.

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