Soul Asylum

Hang Time

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In 1988, Soul Asylum signed with A&M Records, a seemingly miraculous feat for a band usually considered the runt of the litter on the Minneapolis alternative rock scene, but the group's major-label debut, Hang Time, found them making good on the promise of their indie albums Made to Be Broken and While You Were Out. Hang Time was produced by Lenny Kaye and Ed Stasium, who between them firmed up the band's sloppy semi-punk assault while reinforcing the gut-level punch of Dan Murphy's and Dave Pirner's guitars; in their hands, Soul Asylum's songs rocked hard but revealed a pop-wise core that was smarter than they'd sounded in the past. Of course, it helped that Pirner's songwriting chops had been growing at an impressive rate, and the fierce passion and anthemic energy he generates here is more sophisticated than his earliest efforts but still rings out with sincerity and belief. (And while Murphy only wrote one tune for this album, it was a great one, and "Cartoon" is one of Hang Time's highlights.) While Hang Time was the work of a more mature and cerebral Soul Asylum, the fire of the group's blowout live shows is very much present, and when the guys crank it up on "Standing in the Doorway," "Sometime to Return," or "Beggars and Choosers," they're all but unstoppable. Soul Asylum made a number of albums that sold a lot more than Hang Time, but in most respects they never got better than this -- it hits the ideal balance between their snotty roots and their more ambitious later recordings and shows these two sides of their personality could have easily coexisted under the right circumstances.

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