Boston quintet Hallelujah The Hills are readying their fourth album, Have You Ever Done Something Evil? Recorded in just five days at 1809 Studios in New York, the album represents a further step in the evolution of the band, and the good news is that it sounds great.
This is good-time rock and roll with a weird edge, with frontman Ryan Walsh addressing the complications and absurdities of modern life in a way that is more often seen in modern lit. The album kicks off with a manic drum roll and dives head first into a manic indie rock track, ‘We Are What We Say We Are’, complete with rousing shout-along chorus.
The album doesn’t really waver from thereon, with a continued description of the incongruities in contemporary life, lyrics that are both funny and terrifying and very much now. While having the lyrics to hand would make writing this review a lot easier, the pleasure of Have You Ever… comes from repeated listens, each re-run unearthing a new lines or phrases.
“Just read me my rights in the cadence we agreed on” from ‘Try This Instead’, and: “I’m doing okay I guess, I’ll walk with a limp but I’ll do my best to hide it / I’ll show up to your party with bandages on, covering every part of my head but my eyes. You’ll see me don’t worry” from ‘Destroy This Poem’ are just a few that jumped out in my time with the record so far. ‘I Stand Corrected’ another smart, lean indie rock song (which I do have the lyrics to), opens with the lines:
“You’ve been selected to participate
In a survey about this call.
You can press 3 to get on with it
Or smash the phone into the wall.”
and goes on to the Salinger-esque:
“You can always press the star key to see if I’m around
But I probably won’t be around
Because the world tends to swallow us whole
and I’d rather risk oblivion
Then wait around to play some phony role.”
The track comes complete with a self-made video in which the band take you on a tour of Boston’s legendary (and completely fictitious) music landmarks. Check it out over at Youtube.
But if this social commentary stuff isn’t your thing, don’t let us put you off. These are still spirited rock songs that bring to mind some of my favourite bands – Titus Andronicus, Oxford Collapse, Wintersleep, The Walkmen, not to mention the impressive HtH back catalogue. Whether this triumphant tone is ironic or genuinely celebratory is up to you to decide. I’d say a bit of both. And I’d also ask whether it matters, this is easily my favourite rock and roll album of the year so far.