Poor Philadelphia, we always get shafted. As a resident for a large majority of my life, I’ve felt the pain. Dwarfed by New York and D.C. Chastised by sports commentators who just don’t understand that when Philadelphia fans cheer because of an opposing team member’s possibly career-threatening injury, it’s just our way of saying, “Get well soon!” Wondering when the City that Loves You Back (Um, do you think we could turn the suck down on that tagline? Thanks.) is going to be the next Seattle? Hail Social is the latest release in a bid to make Philadelphia seem cool and you know what? It might just have worked.
Hail Social are a New New Wave band more in the vein of Franz Ferdinand than the Killers. But they aren’t just American clones of the British ideal. They’re darker than Franz Ferdinand, less inclined to throw caution to the wind and have a good time. Surprisingly enough, it works for them. Instead of banking on the idea that excitement will get them through their debut alone, Hail Social would rather sulk in the corner than be the center of attention — a rather refreshing thought when NME creams themselves every other week because of every new band that sounded like last week’s flavor of the month.
Bands always forget how integral a good rhythm section is. Yeah, they’re not the best interview and they don’t get to go home with the hottest groupies but they’re still, like, really important. And luckily, Hail Social understands that. Bassist Dan Henry is Hail Social’s secret weapon. On songs like “Track #1” (which is actually track number five but whose counting?) and “Come Out Tonight,” he makes the band much more fun than they would be without him. Henry is one of the strongest elements of Hail Social, giving a danceable backbone to their comparatively dark sound.
Drummer Matt Maraldo keeps a consistent tempo throughout the entire album, which, in turn, makes every single song, from the insanely catchy “Hands are Tied” to the decidedly boring “More Time,” sound pretty much the same. While the guitars aren’t as angular as most fellow New New Wavers, the tones themselves don’t stray far from song-to-song which doesn’t help the album from blending together and making songs hard to distinguish from one another.
In interviews, leader Dayve Hawk often speaks about how he was apprehensive about starting Hail Social because he wanted to keep his bedroom compositions to himself. Hawk’s lyrics do nothing but reflect that. His heart-on-sleeve approach is almost shocking, you aren’t really prepared to hear lyrics like, “The lights came up / She wasn’t there / I despair / There’s nothing of left of me,” on album opener “Hands are Tied.” Someone dropped a little Dashboard Confessional into the mold when they were creating Hail Social. Hawk can get as introspective as he wants but Hail Social succeeds, like most of their other New New Wave brethren, when they aim for our hips and not our hearts. Hawk’s syrupy delivery and Henry’s infectious bass line on “Get in the Car” is much more compelling than the comparatively unmemorable “Repetition,” which Hail Social just aren’t good enough to pull off yet. The band relegate their slower, more pensive songs for the latter half of the album, making that part much harder to swallow and ending it on a low note.
Hail Social ain’t Nirvana so I’m just going to have to wait a little longer for my beloved city’s moment in the sun. But it could be worse. I could live in New Jersey.
Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand
The Cure – Disintegration
The Faint – Danse Macabre