PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Hallelujah the Hills: Have You Ever Done Something Evil?

Hallelujah the Hills has long been a band fascinated with artifacts and documents, and this album is full of them.


Hallelujah the Hills

Have You Ever Done Something Evil?

US Release: 2014-05-13
Label: Discrete Pageantry
UK Release: 2014-05-13
Artist Website
Amazon
iTunes

Let's start with crisis. On the opening track to Have You Ever Done Something Evil?, titled "We Are What We Say We Are", Hallelujah the Hills comes on like a buzzsaw spun free of its machinery. "Nevermind religion, we've got other fields to plow," lead singer Ryan Walsh howls while the drums sprint at impossible speed. The bass rumbles and guitars churn to keep up. Turns out he's right, since by the end of the first verse the moon has crashed into Earth. The chaos of collision turns to a longer-lasting chaos of having made it through that collision, an "introductory class on thinning the herd," as Walsh puts it.

This album, despite that set up, isn't exactly post-apocalyptic, but it does have a sort of post-crisis feel to it, and the people on Have You Ever Done Something Evil? are always looking for new ways to survive -- in an actual and existential sense -- or to make sense out of the fact that they're still here. But even in survival there's some serious isolation. On "Try This Instead" there's a group of people "all dressed up for someone to come home." On "I Stand Corrected", there's distance in awkward phone conversations, while on "Home Movies" the narrator plays "loops of you sleeping" instead of being in the room to sleep with that "you." It's a paranoid isolation sometimes, as Walsh claims, "life ain't nothing but liquor in a room with firearms" on "Do You Have Romantic Courage?" But there's also a resilience here, a desire to bridge the communication gap, to break down the closed doors everything seems to happen behind. When the narrator of "Destroy This Poem" is told the doors are closed, he declares "fuck that noise." All over the album locks are broken and doors are kicked open. Survival, here, is also about connection.

It's also an album full of big statements. Walsh's lyrics are surgical in their detail, full of the physical and concrete, but the songs often payoff on grand declarations and huge questions. The opening song ends with an army of voice claiming, "We are what we say we are." The narrator on "Destroy This Poem" calls out his critics when he tells us, "there's a lot of people claiming I've got no skin in the game." There's also questions like, "Do you have romantic courage?" and, of course, the album's title question. These statements aren't mantras so much are reminders there's still something to prove. The questions aren't challenges so much as ways to hold onto memories.

Because that -- the losing of memory -- might be the real tension underneath lunar collisions and the stocking of firearms and the lure of the occult. Hallelujah the Hills has long been a band fascinated with artifacts and documents, and this album is full of them, full of the ways in which we keep track of, shape, and sometimes distort memory. The titles here give us some of the artifacts -- the poem and the home movie, for instance. But there's also the post-phone-call survey on "I Stand Corrected", proposed paintings of the "myths of lead guitarists" on "Home Movies", "golden tape recorded versions of the truth" on "Pick Up an Old Phone", and on "MCMLIV (Continuity Error)" people don't come to life until "someone clapped the slate." Reality and the documentation of it, memory and the recreation of it, get confused here, and if they bring our troubles to the surface they also provide catharsis, release, another chance to get our shit together. Even this album becomes part of this line of documents. On "Do You Have Romantic Courage?" Walsh says, "I'm responsible for the edits in the song right here / It used to be a truth but it's something no one wants to hear." It's another construction, another way to frame the rubble of the world around us and make it look like order.

So on one meta level, this is art about how art shapes feeling and memory, but this is hardly a bookish affair. This is also the band's most propulsive and exciting music to date. The band has an almost cinematographic feel for creating backdrops for Walsh's lyrics. A warm bed of horns turns the scraped out rubble of "We Are What We Say We Are" into something resilient, even triumphant. The rippling guitars on "Destroy This Poem" stand in nicely for the bleary-eyed perspective of our limping narrator. "A Domestic Zone" is an epic track, where drums shuffle and rise and fall, carving out an isolated expanse as guitars feedback and throw fits, their echo only emphasizing the solitary silence around them. The album is full of hooks and towering choruses, but they're built into these incredibly textured songs, full of sounds so carefully combined or successfully clashing you can almost feel the scuffed-up edges of these songs as you hear them. Here you've got a musical world to get lost in, but also songs to get stuck in your head. You can pour over the lyric sheet, dig into the details, or you can marvel at the sheer immediacy of the album.

Ryan Walsh quit his day job to write this record. He made it his only work, and he and the band took a huge risk to make the album happen. In the end, Have You Ever Done Something Evil? is a rousing success, a great pay-off to that risk. These songs may hone in on artifacts, on memory, on pressing forward, but they are also in and of themselves documents of resilience, of a fresh way of seeing the world, of the charge of feeling inherent in great music by dedicated musicians. These songs are what they say they are.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Music

Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."

Music

50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.

Film

Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.

Film

The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.

Music

Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.

Music

'Waiting Out the Storm' with Jeremy Ivey

On Waiting Out the Storm, Jeremy Ivey apologizes for present society's destruction of the environment and wonders if racism still exists in the future and whether people still get high and have mental health issues.

Music

Matt Berninger Takes the Mic Solo on 'Serpentine Prison'

Serpentine Prison gives the National's baritone crooner Matt Berninger a chance to shine in the spotlight, even if it doesn't push him into totally new territory.

Music

MetalMatters: The Best New Heavy Metal Albums of September 2020

Oceans of Slumber thrive with their progressive doom, grind legends Napalm Death make an explosive return, and Anna von Hausswolff's ambient record are just some of September's highlights.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.