Men Without Hats

Love in the Age of War

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The seventh album by Men Without Hats -- and the first after a nine-year hiatus from the name, following an 11-year gap between Sideways and No Hats Beyond This Point -- Love in the Age of War is an apt example of too much of a good thing. On the one hand, Ivan Doroschuk couldn't have picked a better time to return, with his trademark clean and crisp synth rock now is just one musical choice among many rather than simply something to garner either cult status or derision. But Love in the Age of War is simultaneously skilled and a bit of gilding the lily, something that works excellently if one takes the album song by song, but which feels like an unchanging palette that can be wearying overall. On their own, a lot of their songs are hit-the-spot perfect in terms of capturing the mix of drive, melody, and wry energy. If nothing is flat out as perfectly barbed and anthemic as "The Safety Dance," or as sweetly catchy as "Pop Goes the World," it's still a treat to hear Doroschuk and the current lineup work through his general fascinations. "Head Above Water" and the title track are among the strongest tracks, each with rough, immediate choruses and a real sense of an event; the latter ends the album on a suitably unsettling note, air raid sirens fading into the distance as if reality has to be returned to at last. The slightly easier going tempo of "Your Beautiful Heart" makes for a slight nod back to disco as well, while the only song that completely slows down is the lovely "Close to the Sun," which is as sharp and sweet a synth rock song about romance (and romance lost) as any recorded over the years. Still, rather than this being an album to enjoy front to back, it's one to dip into -- the antithesis of something continually evolving and changing like the Pop Goes the World album.

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