We should hate Hall & Oates. We should curse those white-soul-singing devils for the valuable real estate their fiendishly chirpy soft hits have taken up in our collective cranium for almost 30 years. We should despise them for those mortifying moments in the grocery checkout line when we inexplicably blurt, "Private eyes! They're watching you!" Sometimes we even add the hand claps.
But we don't hate Daryl and John, of course. We adore those crafty mind manipulators -- always have, always will (although we wish Oates would grow one of those Burt Reynolds-circa-"Hooper" mustaches again. Clean-shaven, he looks like Hall's accountant). And we're quite happy to report that the duo's new album is a thoroughly enjoyable, completely respectable listen that even contains a sinfully catchy cut that'll get stuck in your melon right next to "Kiss on My List."
"Life's Too Short," the best tune the duo's written since 1985's "Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid," has such a remarkable time-travel ability that Casey Kasem should introduce it. The celebrate-love song's got it all: Hall's high-low "ooh yeah" over-emoting, a chugging little industrial beat, head-sway acoustic strums, and a cotton-candy hook that'll be hard to resist crooning in a crowded elevator.
Almost as good are the big 'n' sappy title track and "Heartbreak Time," on which Oates adds hairy-chested backing vocals and Philly boy Hall sounds like he's a young man playing "One on One" again.
There aren't any flat-out embarrassments here, although two songs come close: The 'N Stinker "Miss DJ" sounds like a couple of old, puffy Justin Timberlakes playing the Golden Nugget, and "Love in a Dangerous Time" is not only a weirdo safe-sex gospel number but the lone time when Hall begrudgingly throws Oates a bone and lets him -- ack! -- sing lead.
But forget about those minor duds. Hall & Oates are a combined 107 years old now, yet they still have the skills that made them the most successful duo in pop history. So go ahead and sing their silly stuff in the Safeway. Chances are, someone will gladly join you.
-- Sean Daly
(To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8172.)