It’d be hard to truly dislike Haim. They’re an eminently likeable, albeit slightly kooky, trio whose story already bears the frisson of legend. Three multi-talented siblings — Danielle, Alana and Este — who were baptised in the dark arts of rock ‘n’ roll by their own parents. Yes, when sensible teens were swotting for exams Haim’s folks had them rockin’ from dusk ’til dawn in their family combo “Rockinhaim”. The Haimsters soon become “Valli Girls” and their “Valli Nation” track adorns (naturellement) the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants soundtrack. But destiny wasn’t for waiting and so our three fledgling funkateers solemnly swore a ‘death or glory’ bloodoath as HAIM! Cue “Previously on Haim” montage….
Haim release sharp and generously gratis début EP Forever! ‘Groove is in the heart’ singles “Falling”, “Don’t Save Me” and “The Wire” are unleashed and folks generally agree “YES! MORE!” Lots of people with beards choose words including “Mac” and “Fleetwood”! Este Haim’s bassface becomes “Eighth Wonder of World”! Haim win prestigious BBC Sound of 2013 Poll… and bizarrely a NME award for Best Twitterer! Band plays every festival ever! Three times! Haim album gets delayed and acquires mythical status (Title rumoured to be Haim (TBC))! British Prime Minister called in to ‘sort out’ album delay shenanigans by making Haim perform a private gig for him live on BBC TV! Album released the very next day….
…Let’s just say there’s a lot riding on this record being “Quite good, actually”. Luckily Days Are Gone is pretty much as good as y’all hoped it’d be. The first half carries the singles and is therefore ‘Killer no filler’. One top drawer belter after another. The punchy “Falling” still kicks like Jacko’s “Beat It” rollerblading across the sunkissed boardwalks of Venice beach. “If it gets rough, it’s time to get rough,” cries Danielle inexplicably whilst rallying the troops like some street-tough gang from The Warriors albeit with nicer hair. “Forever” is all teasing ‘stop-start’, Prince percussive crunch and “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” shakin’ guitar licks. If Jacko moonwalked by at this point and squealed “Heeee! Haaaa!” you wouldn’t spill your tea.
UK hit “The Wire” then shimmies seductively from the ’70s glam kick of the Purple One’s “Peach” to the ’80s MTV pastel pop of Rod Stewart’s “Baby Jane”. Raybans on, hood down, handclaps n’ glitter, sunny delight stomp. It has SUMMER JAMZ encoded in its DNA. The last of Haim’s four singles so far is the slick, whipcrackin’ “Don’t Save Me”. With one foot on the gas and one eye on the rearview mirror it has the dapper bravado of Tom Petty at his most coolly astute, “Take me back / Take me back to the song / How’d it used to go?” If you dig beneath these pop licks, there’s a real soul. Cut across the lyrical highways of “Baby’s” and “Heat” and these songs are cut with “Never look back, never give up” determination, independent spirit and confidence-boosting, pre-fight mantras delivered in smoky, syncopated ‘Walking on hot coals’ pseudo-rap bursts.
But it’s with the newer or lesser-known material that Days Are Gone will mostly be initially measured. If the sweet sparkle of “If I Could Change Your Mind” appears a mere dandyish, romantic skip between the singles, then “Honey & I” proves more memorable. A gorgeous Joni Mitchell-ish daydreams and butterflies strum that midway picks up a buttsmackin’ backbeat and threatens to gallop into Kenny Loggin’s Caddyshack theme “I’m Alright”. Elsewhere, live favourite “Let Me Go” trades White Stripes’ bluesy, tribal verses with a euphoric Motown chorus and slowburns to a blistering, writhing finale. Although Days Are Gone sounds largely as anticipated there are a pair of new tracks which purposely perhaps try to venture to pastures new. “My Song 5” grinds like a Timberlake/Timbaland joint, “Cry Me a River” in particular. A darker brew of slamming doors, diced vocals, dramatic distorted bass and pained cries of “Goin’ through some crazy shit.” It’s an unexpected twist and feels comparatively like a storm cloud in July. The Mary J. Blige-sounding title track — a co-write with another rising star Jessie Ware — again veers towards more contemporary R&B territory. Swishly sophisticated it may be but somehow it lacks that genuine human touch that makes Haim so appealing.
The hot, blue sky bliss of Days Are Gone fades, smartly, with two shots of wistful nostalgia over a ‘last day of summer’ sunset. The Kate Bush-esque “Running If You Call My Name” is haunted with heavy-hearted ache and tough love, “With my eyes closed, I’m leaving it all behind.” But it’s the slowburning fever dream “Go Slow” — rescued from 2012’s introductory Forever EP — that’s the real top trump heartbreaker. Passionately pining with smouldering desire, it literally smokes the sidewalk. “I hate who I’ve become from your heat now…I just wanna go back, hold on to the way that I was.” Its push ‘n’ pull, twist o’ love melody rolls subtle but bewitchingly unforgettable.
Only a real grinch could fail to throw their arms around Days Are Gone. It’s not revolutionary, life-changing ‘high art’ but right here, right now Haim’s sassy, enthusiastic, ‘one for all’ joie de vivre feels freshly invigorating, infectious …basically, a drop o’ the good stuff. Someone better tweet the Prime Minister though, “Re: Hysteria averted! Haim album pretty groovy! Moët O’clock!”