Along with bands like the Knack and the Plimsouls, the Hawks combined the melodic songcraft of Badfinger with the angular immediacy of the bourgeoning '80s new wave sound. Despite being signed to Columbia and garnering a loyal cult following, the Iowa band never achieved great success with their 1980 self-titled debut and 1982 follow-up, 30 Seconds Over Otho, eventually fading into obscurity. Fortunately, Not Lame Recordings created a third Hawks album of sorts, proving the band had much more up its sleeve. Compiled with the assistance of the band, Perfect World Radio features various demos and unreleased tracks. Sounding something like Dwight Twilley meets Styx, the collection paints the picture of a talented band too quirky and intelligent for mainstream radio and conversely too slick for the underground of college rock. What is also apparent is that lead vocalist/guitarist Dave Steen, vocalist/keyboardist Dave Hearn, vocalist/guitarist Kirk Kaufman, vocalist/bassist Frank Wiewel, and drummer Dolor Larry Adams knew how to craft an immaculate pop song. It's hard to believe that the driving "Only Love Is Real" couldn't have competed with any Cars classic and that one couldn't at least argue that Steen's Rupert Holmes-like "Roxanne" is as good a use of the name in a pop song as Sting's. The album also attempts to put to rest the argument that the band became too commercial on 30 Seconds while sacrificing their jangle pop roots. Here you find a band equally adept at 12-string Rickenbacker folk-isms as it is at synthesizer-laden stadium anthems and sounding great at both. If Wiewel's "Right Away" sounds better than anything Badfinger released in 1979, than Steen's "The Show Is Over" is the best Who song you never heard. Barring a complete reissue of the Hawks' studio albums, Perfect World Radio stands as long overdue pop justice.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar