Men Without Hats – Again, Part 2 (Album Review)

Men Without Hats – Again, Part 2 (Album Review)

“We can dance if we want to / We can leave your friends behind.” What self-respecting New Wave/Synthpop aficionado did not sing along to those lines at any point in his teenage life?

Formed in 1977, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Men Without Hats catapulted to international popularity during the peak of New Wave music via that ubiquitous song “The Safety Dance.” In its on-and-off career, the band – currently consisting of Founder Ivan Doroschuk (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboard, drums), Colin Doroschuk (vocals, keyboards, guitar, bass), and Sho Murray (guitar)- has released eight full-length albums: from 1982’s Rhythm of Youth; the chart-topping Pop Goes the World of 1987; through the latest, this year’s Again, Part 2.

The second part of two releases over the past two years, the first being the five song EP Again, Part 1 released in September of 2021, it marks Men Without Hats’ first new materials since 2012’s Love in the Age of War. Released on Friday, March 11, 2022, via Sonic Envy Records, Again, Part 2 is an impressive fourteen tracks. Introduced with a grand, dramatic prelude, it then segues to the instantly infectious “The Love Inside Your Heart,” which will certainly propel the initiated listener to the glorious days of New Wave in the 1980s. The Synthpop energy flows seamlessly to the ensuing “All into Stars” and “If the World Should End Today” – fancy, tuneful, catchy, yet glowing with a tone of poignancy.

The trio then slow down the rhythm for a bit, with the punchy and slightly ominous “The Human Race,” only to take the listener once again to the dancefloor, as “My Love” flickers its sheen. And then the setting changes with the cinematic waves of the short interlude “Theme from ‘The Summer of ’72′” and the Tropical/Disco sensibilities of “Where Does the Love Begin?,” standing out with its male-female vocal interplay.

Another change of mood, “Just Another Day” treats the listener to its starry, dreamy balladry; whereas “In This World” shines through as a beautiful, slow piano-oriented song. After these two breathers, Men Without Hats speed up again the metronome, as they reach up for “Heaven.” Furthermore, “Nancy’s Room” is a throwback to an earlier and darker part of the 1980s, as it conjures images of Goth teens clad in black with faces smudged with eyeliners and lipsticks and hands waving in the air filled with fog and rays from strobe lights.

After the celebratory disposition of “My Own Advice,” Ivan, Colin, and Sho finally lay down their hats and bid a momentary goodbye with “Where the Wild Go” – a piano ballad sung with a voice of baritone, with bells and synths and lush orchestration – perfect!

The world went New Wave, Synth & Pop in the 1980s, but it really did not end there. The genre just got pushed to the sidelines as the spotlight of commerciality shifted its focus onto other styles of music which, in fairness, were also needing attention. Thus, for the love of New Wave, all the willing fan needs to do is acknowledge and appreciate the new outputs of the bands associated with the genre since the golden days. Men Without Hats are one of them. If Again, Part 2 is not brilliantly Synthpop enough, then what is? Well worth checking out, Cryptic Rock gives it 4 out of 5 stars.

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aLfie vera mella
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Born in 1971, in Metro Manila, Philippines, aLfie vera mella is a healthcare worker, singer/songwriter, and editor/writer. He was the frontman of the ’90s-peaking Philippine Alternative Rock / New Wave band Half Life Half Death, which released a full-length album and several singles on Viva Records. aLfie worked at Diwa Scholastic Press as an editor/writer of academic textbooks and supplementary magazines, focusing on Science & Technology and English Grammar & Literature. In 2003, aLfie migrated to Canada; he has since been living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He works full-time at a healthcare institution, while serving as the associate contributing editor of Filipino Journal—a local community newspaper in Winnipeg—tackling Literature, Languages, Cultures, Lifestyles, and Music. aLfie has been a music journalist since the mid-’90s for various print magazines as well as websites. He started writing album reviews for Cryptic Rock in 2015. In 2016, aLfie published Part One (Literature & Languages and Their Cultural Significance) of his Essay Series, Can You Hear the Sound of a Falling Leaf?; in 2021, his first book of poetry, Pag-íhip sa Dáhon ng Kahápon [Blowing Leaves of Yesterday]. In his spare time, he enjoys reading books and listening to music. aLfie is a dedicated father to his now 13-year-old son, Evawwen; and a loving husband to Kathryn Mella, who herself moonlights also as a writer aside from holding a degree in Bachelor of Arts, Major in Sociology.

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