What’s playing on your stereo before you go out?
This is not an unimportant question. Whole careers have been made on the backs of albums sold to span that half-hour between dinner and $8 vodka-cranberries, when the make-up flies and the after-shave pours. Philadelphia’s Hail Social desperately wants the job … and good thing, too. The band’s blissfully angular tunes have the clean-cut hum of pre-clubbing showers and the anxious rhythm of high-heels on pavement.
More than anything, though, the quartet’s full-length debut is an adventure in nostalgia. Eighties like Don Johnson’s sports jacket, ’80s like Iron-Contra, and ’80s like neon-green jellies on your five-year-old sister, Hail Social’s primped-pop bleeds the decade of spandex and pastel. Lead-singer and guitarist Dayve Hawk (the “y” must be an ’80s thing) writes youthful, near-perfect tunes about homeroom neurosis, and he’s got an ankle-hugging rhythm section behind him to keep the hair floppin’ in the aisle. “Hands Are Tied” marries a Knight Rider guitar riff with Robert Smith’s sexual frustration under hot-pink lights, and “Get in the Car,” possibly the record’s standout, features a head-clap intro straight outta those Duran Duran records that never make it past the yard sales.
Hawk’s lyrics might not stray any further than a little pre-relationship anxiety or post-relationship bitterness, but his falsetto “oohs” and “aahs” in all the right places, and he leaves enough room in his moping to inject nearly every Sixteen Candles or Breakfast Club narrative your sentimental heart can conjure up. Fortunately, Hawk’s songwriting pen and the aluminum sheen of bassist Dan Henry and drummer Matt Maraldo manage to keep the songs a pace ahead of the nostalgia.
Problem is, their timing may be a little off. Hail Social’s arrival smack in the middle of second-wave post-pock revivalists like Bloc Party and the Bravery is guaranteed to roll a few eyes. But those folks should remain mindful of Hawk’s undeniable talent. Nearly every inch of these nine tracks are easily digestible, radio-ready, and utterly danceable — all things those bands play homage to, whether they’re from New York, London, Glasgow or Philadelphia.