The Hooters, Time Stand Still (Hooters Music, 2008)

Rob Hyman and Eric Bazilian first met in the seventies, while taking a class on the synthesizer at the University of Pennsylvania. Together they played in a couple of different bands in the Philadelphia rock scene, before starting The Hooters in 1980. Consisting of Hyman (vocals, keyboards, melodica), Bazilian (vocals, guitar, mandolin, saxophone), Andy King (bass and vocals), John Lilley (rhythm guitar), and David Uosikkinen (drums), The Hooters recorded an independent album in 1983 before a huge opportunity came their way courtesy of Rick Chertoff, a classmate of Hyman and Bazilian who had gone on to be a producer. Chertoff was working on an album with an unknown singer named Cyndi Lauper, and he needed a backing band for a number of songs. The resulting album She's So Unusual produced several major hit singles, including "Time After Time," co-written by Lauper and Hyman. This quickly led to The Hooters getting a major label signing.

Aided by MTV, 1985's Nervous Night quickly gained The Hooters a national following. "All You Zombies" may have been a reggae song about the Old Testament, and the power pop songs "And We Danced" and "Day By Day" may have both featured prominent use of the mandolin, but the band's quirkiness went over well at least initially. On One Way Home from 1987, the band aimed for more depth and generally succeeded. "Satellite" poked fun at televangelism and "Johnny B" dealt with addiction, while "Karla With A K" is a folk-rock classic. The album was a major hit in Europe, especially in Germany, but their following at home started to quickly vanish. Andy King left after this, and was replaced by Fran Smith. Zig Zag, released in 1989, is one of the great lost albums of the eighties. Mixing all kinds of styles and lyrical themes, the album addressed many of the issues facing a rapidly changing world. Their adaptation of "500 Miles" captured the essence of the demonstration in China's Tianamen Square, an event that was horribly and tragically unsuccessful on its own terms but set the stage for the collapse of the rest of the Communist world. "Give The Music Back" turned out to be a very prophetic lament of the hostile corporate takeover of the music industry. Zig Zag got basically no attention at all in the United States, though, while selling strongly in Europe. The band made one more album in 1993, called Out of Body. They band tried a little too hard to get back on American radio with it, and the album not only seemed mostly forced, but failed to get anybody's attention here.

The Hooters more or less fizzled out at that point, although Hyman and Bazilian showed they were still capable of boosting other people's careers. Rick Chertoff again recruited their help to work on an album he was producing by a new singer named Joan Osborne. Osborne's debut album Relish was also a major hit, with Bazilian penning the album's biggest single "One of Us." Hyman, Bazilian, and Chertoff also collaborated on Largo, an intriguing 1998 album featuring many guest performers that basically celebrated the many facets of the immigrant experience in America. The Hooters played as a group on one track, but that appeared to be the end of their story. Then, in 2001, Hyman, Bazilian, Lilley, Uosikkinen, and Smith reunited for a concert in honor of a Philadelphia disc jockey. Originally a one-off performance, the band soon discovered that there was still a considerable demand for their music in Germany -- "Johnny B" has apparently become something of a barroom anthem over there -- and the band have crossed the Atlantic for a tour every summer since 2003. Other than warm-up shows in Philadelphia, though, The Hooters still haven't had much luck generating interest here.

Now, however, at least they have a new album to promote. Time Stand Still was recorded piecemeal over the past couple of years, and released last fall in Europe and this month in the United States. It marks the first new Hooters album in fifteen years. In addition to co-producing the album, Hyman and Bazilian co-wrote almost all of the tracks, except for a cover of Don Henley's "The Boys of Summer" and a song they wrote with Lilley called "Ordinary Lives." The mullets and bright-colored suits are mercifully long gone, but otherwise The Hooters remarkably pick up right where they left off. The most refreshing thing I discovered when listening to the new record is that the band have held on to the boyish enthusiasm that characterized all their best music. Most of the album consists of bright, energetic rockers featuring The Hooters' trademark blend of mandolins and accordions with rock instruments. Bazilian and especially Hyman both show a bit of wear in their voices, but the band's energy and spirit make up for it. The tone for the album is set by the positive, upbeat opening song "I'm Alive," a celebration of simply being here. The album's title tune is another catchy song, with Hyman and Bazilian singing about all the things they'd do if time was never an issue. The album does include a few good softer songs as well. "Until You Dare" is a solid ballad about taking chances, and "Ordinary Lives" reflects the band's healthy perspective on getting older. My favorite song on the new record is "Where The Wind May Blow," a minor-key rocker about navigating your way through troubled times. The Hooters finish the album with a bonus track called "White Jeans," a really fun, comical song about the ups and downs of the first band they played in when they were younger.

Time Stand Still is the work of a veteran band back after a long layoff who, instead of aiming to make a masterpiece or trying to mass-market themselves to an audience that probably won't notice, sound content to just be themselves and have fun making music together. I don't harbor any illusions of The Hooters winning over a whole generation of new fans, but old fans who've stuck around will be very pleased with this effort.

Overall grade: B+

reviewed by Scott

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