Album in Depth: Good & Evil by Tally Hall

Hi, I’m JotaKa. I’m a rocker by birth and grew listening to rock discs and long plays by the dozen. One year ago, I found this little band (while playing in the sand) called Tally Hall. At first, I didn’t pay much attention, but as I listened to it, it became my second favorite album, even getting an album in depth. I became maniac about this band, waiting for any release. The way they mixed whimsical with creepy, things that could’ve come out of an insane mind take place, with your mix of ballads, memorable songs and even cutesy songs, including one to an unborn baby and you can’t get any cuter than that.

But that was back in 2005 (and later re-released on 2008). So many years later, they decided to release Good & Evil this year. Since they aren’t that well known, most of the steps that were taken aren’t well documented: there is a mist of mystery on top of things, like why this album was released by their independent label instead of the label they just made a contract with. But we’re not talking politics, we are talking music on this one. The formation stood the taste of time, remaining the same five ties of before: Yellow Tie Rob Cantor keeps the vocals and guitar, Blue Tie Zubin Sedghi keeps some vocals and the bass, Grey Tie Ross Federman drums, Joe Hawley sings some and leads the guitar and, finally, Andrew Horowitz sings and plays the keyboards.

The cover art is almost as good as their previous album (seriously, I loved that cover) even though it’s simple, with white and black triangles intercalating the words Tally and Hall, which the duality of white with black, light and dark being almost a theme on the album. The longest song on the album the last one, Fate of the Stars, with 6:50, and the shortest tune is A Lady, with 1:05, and the entire album runs 48:50.

Strangely, I couldn’t find any reviews on it, so I guess I’ll be the first one to do so. The band is underground and sales are mostly domestic, so I guess it didn’t even get bronze album. Well, let’s get this over with: Good & Evil by Tally Hall. And since we’re going from Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum, second best album ever, comparisons will be inevitable.

1st track: “Never Meant to Know” – Well, obviously, it lacks enthusiasm, as Good Day was the master intro track, this one is a little bit milder. The lyrics are clever, question the reckless curiosity mankind has, and that in simpler times everything was easier. However, comparing, again, to most songs on MMMM, we have to say this one falls kind of short. I kind of like it, but I enjoyed Tally Hall for their creepiness, mixed with their magic, their creativity and their enthusiasm. This time around, it lacks enthusiasm. However, Andrew Horowitz shows a keyboard that lacked on the previous album that kind of got me by surprise. This is a good intro song for an album, but honestly, I was expecting something greater.

2nd track: “&” – This song is really hard to classify. Again, it’s a creepy song with the lack of “happy” being the thing that draws it back. Heck, even “Ruler of Everything” that was creepy to the core, had happiness. It really sounds as a soundtrack to a very creepy movie (let’s say “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events”, to better illustrate). As the thought of all the album, it talks about the duality of everything, with lots and lots of examples, and about forty “&” in the whole song. The song ends with a sort of a old party song (like Hokey Pokey) that isn’t as near as inspired as the care free fun of their previous album, but it still amuses me, since it brings the good thing of the duality: that you have to understand one another.

3rd track: “You and Me” – This song starts a little more traditionally and the meaning of the lyrics escapes me. At the same time it can be a simple love song, it can also be more of a “father teaching his son”, and it wouldn’t be the first time they did something like that (Be Born comes to mind). Overall, the song is great and it really strikes the chord with me, as it also presents the father learning, as they both go on a better way. The lacking is the instrumentation, with none of the instruments standing out, with only the vocal to show off. It’s better than &, at least.

4th track: “Cannibal” – So, it’s finally here. A Tally Hall song that I kind of dislike. I remember there was one song on the other that I simply dislike completely (Two Wuv), but it was way later on the album. So, Cannibal talks, in a really downplayed spirit, of a love that takes everything from the guy (in the most physical way possible, and maybe emotionally too, since it’s kind of clear she sees other people), but he keeps on with the relationship, willingly. The idea is great, but I think it’s been done, and even with a bridge that really sounds like a James Bond song and the song has some nice parts, but it’s still way down the “meh” side.

5th track: “Who You Are” – Following, this song is boring. It tries to be sweet and simple, but it wears out with the sort of folk instrumentation, the slow pace that makes the song seems like its dragging itself, and the lack of enthusiasm makes you want to skip it. Unfortunately, this song is completely forgettable, and serves just as a strange low quality tune in itself. A waste of a track with somewhat good lyrics, but mostly made to be sweet… skip this one, if you can.

6th track: “Sacred Beast” – Well, this song is quirky, strange, kind of folk… and I really enjoyed it. It’s the first song Tally Hall made that has sort of a context, with them going to slay the sacred beast: I really don’t know if there is a metaphor, so I’m going with literal value here. The sacred beast complicates the life of everyone, and they show that everything is not much more than happiness, in this case, with some clever use of whistling. This could be considered one of their finest moments, and it’s the first song on the album that I think can go against the songs of their previous album in question of quality. It’s a pretty well done and quirky song with some great lyrics. By the by, they aren’t able to kill the sacred beast.

7th track: “Hymn for a Scarecrow” – Well, if the last one was kind of folk, this goes into folk in full throttle and I really enjoyed it. It’s exactly what’s on the thin: a hymn for a scarecrow, most probably the scarecrow of the wonderful wizard of Oz, since the song keeps going back to the theme of wind. The instrumentation is basically heavy piano, guitar and drums, and it works greatly, even having, what I believe, to be the first guitar solo on their career (that I can recall, the band is not exactly known for their expertise on the guitar). The only thing I don’t like is that the song devolves into noise at the 3 minute mark, and it’s actually pretty badly recorded. Near the end, the song goes back to normal, only to end in a high note. By the way, it also marks the singing premier of Grey Tie near the end, repeating “the wind know”

8th track: “A Lady” – Whoa… what a fantastic idea. Remember how I said before on the track “&” that it sounded like it belongs on a creepy child movie soundtrack? Well, A Lady is a reprise of that song, with different lyrics and way shorter. And it works. You can really sense it belongs, like it’s from far on the movie, repeating a theme. The lyrics are surreal, but… they work. This song works. This song is awesome.

9th track: “The Trap” – The instrumentation of this song is annoying, to say the least, with some keyboards playing a strange effect that, if asked to me “should I include this”, I’d slap them. However, the song overall is your typical love song, with the trap being the outer world, for what I could gather, meaning that they loved each other when the world didn’t meddle with their love life. The song doesn’t change through it all, having a keyboard strange effect solo, but nothing too meaningful or anything. The lyrics are good and the song, overall, is average.

10th track: “Turn the Lights Off” – This song starts horribly, but don’t let that mistaken you. The sound is ruff on the ears, but it floats on with a strange ass chorus (that sounds like sandpaper for your ears) and some clever use for a vocal. It is about the duality of adult-child, but even though the lyrics are imaginative, the keyboard bores the fuck out of me. If you are looking for some good vocal effects, this song has that, but that’s almost all it has (and a good idea for the lyrics).

11th track: “Misery Fell” – Strange as hell song, more concentrating at first on bass, and then, becoming a more traditional song. First of all, I’ve got to say that the lyrics are intelligent: like, really intelligent. A city that was happy, and then, well, misery fell. Unfortunately, it sounds as if this song was passed by everyone like “you do this” “no, you do this” and Zubin Sedghi ended singing it, with not that much emotion. Even a part with la la la sounds like they are bored out of their skulls, and the chorus is the only place that it sounds enthusiastic. It finally feels alive. But not enough to make a good song, unfortunately.

12th track: “Out in the Twilight” – Another song about duality of things, and another use of the word “and”. The song definitely has that magic sort of feeling, but it still sounds strange. The singing is top notch again, but not as much to make it sounds interesting, even more, the syncopation on the verses are kind of disturbing. The idea behind the lyrics is great, and it stops there. Really, it could’ve been a really good song but unfortunately, the lack of enthusiasm takes the best out of it. The keyboard out of it, maybe because the keyboard player of the band composed the song, is kind of good, even having a solo that reminds me of prog rock… of course, in a lesser level.

13th track: “You” – It’s a cutesy song that will make you throw up rainbows for the almost three minutes of the song. Andrew Horowitz singing, that in the previous album sounded as a sarcastic child, this time sounds like… a boring child. Like some kids reading poetry in school… if you compare it to “The Whole World and You” on the previous album (one of my favorites I might add) this one sounds so infantile that you will never want to hear it again. Really, this song should not be in this album.

14th track: “Fate of the Stars” – Okay… this is gonna be a strange analyzes. First of all, the piano… oh, god, the piano is just plain awesome. The song starts as boring as watching the grass grow, to a point where you will think “what the hell? I’m getting sleepy”. But then, it gets the right pace and the music just gets into the awesome gear. Once again, after the chorus is repeated, the song changes and Horowitz assume the vocals (first it was the band without the drummer, then it was Cantor, I believe) and the song goes back to being pretty boring. To show how the song lacks originality, it sounds kind of like Floyd’s Eclipse meets Beatles’ I Want You (She’s So Heavy)… and although that would result in awesomeness, it really doesn’t work. It isn’t a good closer also to this album either.

So, how does it all hold up? I was expecting magnificence, but what I’ve got was really not that much. The album has its good points, mostly the beginning, and it devolves into averageness. Considering the master piece that was their debut album, it is an awful follow-up, but if it had been another band, it could be a step up. Listen to this album only if you enjoyed Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum as much as I did, because honest to god, I started the review really wanting to praise them, but the album is not all that. Maybe fans of creepy Danny Elfman type of music will enjoy this one…

This is JotaKa, signing off.

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