Hail Social is a hard rock cum dance rock cum soft-disco-dance-rock outfit Hail-ing from Philadelphia. Their second release, Modern Love and Death finds the group forsaking the harder sound they explored on the eponymous first release for a more refined, AM-friendly synth-pop, MOR shtick. Unfortunately Modern Love and Death pales in comparison to the more uplifting first record. Where Hail Social was a successful marriage of disco and rock that resulted in dance-worthy tracks with a sense of urgency. Modern Love and Death is a marriage of disco and pop with a sense of futile agency – and there’s a huge difference in quality and edginess between the two.
Produced by Hail Social’s sole songwriter, Dayve Hawk, co-produced by Brian Mctear, and put out on the band's own label Modern Love and Death is aurally monochromatic, which seems intentional, but I’m not quite sure I get it. I’ve heard Hail Social’s sound described as “80’s roller skating music played by a metal band.” With the metal element all but gone and replaced by the monotony of a synthesizer, that dubious description is less apropos here than on their first album. Hawk and his Hail Social cohorts’ failure with Modern Love and Death is that they are now not sincere enough to be credible and not insincere enough to be ironic. And so, the original motivation for marrying such elements together gets lost in the translation. No doubt the individual songs are adequately well crafted, but due to a woeful lack of dynamics, the album as a whole is vacant, soulless, and gloomy.
Modern Love and Death kicks off with its best song “Anna Bell.” This isn’t necessarily a good thing because from then on, it’s a mostly repetitive listen. Dayve Hawk has a pleasant enough voice, but his lyrics often take a turn for the melancholy, which somehow works when juxtaposed with the guitar-driven dance grooves present throughout their first album. However, when Hawk indulges his melodramatic side on Modern Love and Death, which is quite often, the lyrics, the middlin’ tempos and the minor-key melodies combine for an appropriately dismal affair. And Hawk has a propensity to saturate the songs with singing to the point of irritation. Quite honestly, I sometimes found myself wanting Hawk to stop singing and let the music take over already. The lyrics “there’s no reason that these things should be so hard / if you know what you want,” adequately describes the flat and unremarkable “Try Again.” “Cherry Cola Funk’s” title is misleading for the lazy, airy track it represents. The instant message-titled “R U Still There” sounds like it was meant to be played about four times faster than recorded. I have a feeling the causal listener’s answer to the question posed in the song’s title will often be “no.”