Between 2013 and 2019, The Hallingtons released a string of EPs that slowly found them perfecting their own homage to Ramones. Hundreds of bands had recorded in a similar style before, but few had managed to capture the early sounds from Joey and Johnny quite as perfectly as The Hallingtons’ ‘Hexed’, proving the world was more than ready for the Norwegian punks to deliver a full length musical assault.
The long awaited long player might have appeared sooner had the world not been sidelined by a global pandemic, but the brilliant ‘Hop Til You Drop’ marks the end of a three year silence from the band, and shows – somewhat effortlessly – that The Hallingtons’ hard and fast approach sounds equally effective when stretched over a twenty five minute duration. Sure, that makes it short for a supposed long playing record – a whole five minutes shorter than the Ramones debut – but its lean and mean approach results in an all killer, no filler record that pop punk fans will take to their hearts.
Even when the source material is blatantly obvious – almost lifted lock stock, even, as is the case with some of the best tracks – The Hallingtons never sound less than enthused. With the lead single ‘Your Boy’ derived from the classic ‘I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend’ given an extra bubblegum twist, extant fans – or soon to be fans – can experience the band at their most melodic, with a quirky vocal bouncing atop a great retro riff. ‘Out of My Mind’ sounds like a cousin to ‘Cretin Hop’ and ‘Havana Affair’, but still captures the band in great form, never giving less than a hundred percent, despite the core of the track taken from a couple of obvious sources. The two minute romp really doesn’t skimp on jagged chords, layered vocals or brainless hooks (the protagonist lays on his emotional despair, but it doesn’t diminish his appetite for calzone), resulting in a near-perfect pop punk romp. Joining that in terms of great riffs versus fun lyrics, ‘My My Mexico’ tells a tale of a place where “the sun is hot, the food is hot” and the central character is remembered for giving up “beans and burritos for burgers and fries”. Again, most people might spot a distinctly obvious riff or two, but in keeping with The Hallingtons tradition where none of the Ramones love is ever phoned in lazily, this track finds time for a slightly Latin infused break with extra percussion and the drummer channels Tommy and Marky Ramone by counting to four…but in Spanish. Muy Mola!
For the most part, the Ramonescore here is exceptionally tight, with tracks like ‘Not Coming Back To You’ inflected with the sharp edges of Stiff Little Fingers between the ‘Rocket To Russia’ era Johnny Ramone chord progressions, and a re-recorded ‘Alien Girl’ bringing the best out of a barrage of muted, punky chords, accented harmonies and soaring lead guitar parts. An instant classic, ‘Slaughterhouse’ is very much a Hallingtons tribute ‘Anthem For A New Tomorrow’ era Screeching Weasel, but also calls back to already classic Hallingtons tunes with its use of repetitive refrain and taut vocal twists. Delving into the more trashy side of pop punk, the simple, hard edged ‘Figured You Out’ invites the listener to shout along with its heavy repetitious lyric, but has the smarts not to drop too far into a one note trick by introducing a poppier middle eight where worldless vocals come straight from ‘Oh Oh I Love Her So’. It’s all fairly predictable but at the same time, somehow manages to convey a freshness that keeps this pop punker on the good side of interesting.
The bass sound throughout this album is absolutely terrific, but ‘Go Godzilla’, in particular, highlights that fact by kicking off with an immense bottom end rattle which continues under the four chord punky barrage. With The Hallingtons dropping a couple of Queers-ish bubblegum punk melodies between their more obvious schtick, and employing a lyric that – unintentionally, or otherwise – appears to tip the hat at Blue Oyster Cult at their most schlocky during the coda, it’s a sure fire winner. There are times when The Hallingtons understand the value in utilising a broad melody to lift their Ramonescore too, with the extended ‘Hallington Hop’ making excellent use of harmony vocals and a bigger sounding lead guitar part introducing some retro pop/rock, before an extended coda presents some particularly jagged guitar work reinforcing the band’s punky credentials.
Obviously, you won’t find anything here that brings anything new to the world of pop punk and Ramonescore, but you’d be hard pressed to find any bands doing it much better – or any tighter – than these Norwegian lads. ‘Hop Til’ You Drop’ makes good on all those EP releases, and really packs a great punch throughout. By keeping everything short and supercharged too, it’s the kind of album that’ll leave everyone wanting more. In this case, the repeat button comes in more than useful… In short, this is a great LP. Don’t miss it!