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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tally Hall - Good & Evil

Tally Hall - Good & Evil
2011, Quack! Media

Tally Hall had it all in 2008.  A major record deal to release their 2005 Indie smash, Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum had been signed with Atlantic Records.  Expectations were for Tally Hall to catch fire throughout the Western Hemisphere the way they had in the Upper Midwest of the United States.   Atlantic seemingly signed Tally Hall with the expectation of quick profit from a regional powerhouse with a ready fan base and a proven album.  Consequently, little or no push ever materialized, and the major label release essentially tanked.  This is no reflection on the album, which remains one of the most creative and original musical creations of its decade. Tally Hall recently emerged with their second full-length album, Good & Evil.  Produced by Tony Hoffer (Beck, Depeche Mode, Belle & Sebastian) and originally funded by Atlantic Records, Good & Evil finds Tally Hall stepping back into the Indie world.

Tally Hall's mix of Beatles-esque melodies and arrangements, humor, and unusual perspective enhanced their distinctive blend of pop, classic rock and rap and helped make them one of the best known bands in Middle America over the past five years.  Those elements remain on Good & Evil, but with a bit more subtlety and maturity than in the past.  "Never Meant To Know" opens Good & Evil with a quasi-spiritual perspective on the wider world.  It's an acknowledgement of place for humanity, trimmed in a wonderfully compact pop/rock arrangement built on melody that will stay with you.  "&" is classic Tally Hall, a story song that starts somewhere in the middle and challenges the listener to catch up.  Big vocal harmonies and a quietly irresistible melody will grab and hold your attention across multiple repeats. 

The first single from Good & Evil, "You & Me", builds its chorus piece by piece, into a deliciously catchy and simple construction with 1970's AM pop influences.  This has real commercial potential, particularly in the licensing realm, and serves as a solid reminder that for Tally Hall, melody is always a distinct consideration.  "Cannibal" uses melody and harmony as a weapon, buttressing one of the catchiest tunes to cross this desk in 2011.  Release this as a single, and you'll have a moderate hit at the very least.  Given the right timing and backup, "Cannibal" could garner Tally Hall all of the recognition they deserve.

"Sacred Beast" is a catchy, off-the-wall pop tune with an infectious melody.  The combination of quirky pop structure, gentle humor and a tune you simply can't get out of your head might deceive you into thinking this is pure fluff, but there's actually some fairly insightful allusions to human behavior and imperfection woven deep within.  "A Hymn For A Scarecrow" has an almost epic pop feel to it, exploring a quirky spiritualistic embodiment of the song's subject in a beautifully constructed number that takes liberties with traditional pop song structure ala The Beatles.  "The Trap" is a meandering musical exploration of the powerful nature of expectations to hem us in.  Playing almost like a run-on thought, Tally Hall builds in sonic surprises along the way to keep it fresh.

"Turn The Lights Off" is a driven, quirky pop number with an unforgettable chorus.  Kudos if you can sit/stand still through this number, which gives "Cannibal" a run for its money, and fits in sonically with latter day Barenaked Ladies material.  "Misery Fell" is built on the sort of melody and simple pop arrangement that made McCartney such a success with the Beatles and afterward.  After all that, it's also a song that will make you think, particularly in light of the difficulties the world faces in the present day.  "Out In The Twilight" would have been a major hit in the late 1970's or early 1980's, showing a bit of Alan Parsons influence in the songwriting and sound.  The vocal triads layered over the arrangement create a glorious sound that is an aural treat.  "You" shows the band's contemplative side, an almost melancholy song of devotion that stands out for its utter singularity on the album.  "Fate Of The Stars" is a sonically gorgeous song written in non-traditional structure.  This is Tally Hall at their most creative, stitching together musical ideas into a sonic quilt that is both surprising and refreshing in its originality and continuity.

Good & Evil took six years to make, and shows both the distinctive musical and compositional talents Tally Hall showed on Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum and a growing maturity and subtlety that is the sign of artists growing in the confidence of their craft.  Both more and less than their previous work, Good & Evil will continue to build the Tally Hall mystique, on a road that seems destined to have Tally Hall one day headlining tours in major amphitheatres and stadiums across the country.  While perhaps a reflection of the current state of Tally Hall's collective muse, the rap components infused in their prior work served to broaden the band's sonic appeal, and the absence here is notable.  Nevertheless, Good & Evil shows that Tally Hall has managed to bypass the dreaded sophomore slump.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about Tally Hall at, where you can also watch all ten episodes of  Tally Hall's Internet Show.  Good & Evil is available from as a CD or Download.  The album is also available via iTunes.

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