Elevate Difference

Modern Love and Death

Philadelphia-based Hail Social has tried, yet again, to capitalize on the dance-rock craze that has made bands like Hot Chip and Franz Ferdinand pop stars and indie rock heroes. Unfortunately, the band’s attempts at hot beats fizzle before they fail to heat up, and Modern Love and Death is a painful trip back to the 1980s.

Beginning with first track “Annabelle,” there’s a Bee Gees sensibility where the ‘70s disco and the singer’s (Dayve Hawke) falsetto seem like it might be impressive. The song is about Annabelle, the bad girl in town who stirs up trouble: “You will never know all the trouble you caused/After you the neighborhood drew up a book of laws.” He’s in love with the girl, and the song comes off cheeky and sentimental — the best of the album, which means it can only go downhill from there.

From track 2 (“Heaven”) on, it’s a bizarre mix of Hall and Oates synth rhythms and lyrics that don’t exactly convey one singular thought throughout. But on tracks like “Heaven,” some self-righteousness slips out: “I’ll bet every night I’m on your mind.”

The cheese factor really kicks in on “All Night,” when Hawk croons: “All night we can listen to the radio!” Even the lyrics are a throwback to a long time ago, when the singer was most likely a kid without an iPod, which is why the album’s title track seems so bizarre in following.

“I am a modern man and I need a modern girl who will understand,” goes “Modern Love and Death.” But if he’s anything like the songs he writes, it will certainly be a challenge to pin down if Hawk has any originality or anything contemporary about him. It’s an ironic title for a song and album that is a rehashing of the 1980s in a way more akin to Olivia Newton John than The Cure.

Written by: Trish Bendix, September 2nd 2007