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Hal

Hal
Rough Trade

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Irish quartet Hal is a lab-born perfect-pop hybrid -- DNA from Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney, and chromosomal material from Frankie Valli, introduced into Dublin's Cali-on-the-Irish-Sea Petri dish. Weeks later emerged "What a Lovely Dance" and "Don't Come Running," the most smilingly melancholy, summery pop to come from the Emerald Isle since -- well, since last summer's Thrills album.

 But, like some mid-'70s clone-scare sci-fi flick, there's a disturbing vibe lurking in the background -- no band naturally shows such affinity for Wings as on "I Sat Down" or for Carole King as on "Slow Down (You've Got a Friend)." There are many moments on Hal that redeem it all -- snapshots of Tupelo Honey on "Worry About the Wind" and the St. Dominic's Preview outro on "What a Lovely Dance," the album's first single and greatest pop achievement, show Hal's Van the Man allegiances. But sometimes the most elegant pop harmonies and chords can leave one cold in their perfection, despite the pleasantly-drunk-on-the-beach intentions.

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