Talk about one from the vaults.
Calling this a “CD” review would not have been accurate as the LP is long out of print and currently unavailable in any physical format, save for original copies that may be floating around. However, thanks to digital technology and the internet, the music of Hawks, an early 1980s “power pop” band from Iowa, is still alive. The songs on their eponymous first album have stood the test of time fairly well, providing an example of the thin line that can separate success and obscurity.
Like many people who came of age pre-internet, I’ve sometimes wondered if a long-forgotten product might still be alive in some way, shape or form in cyberspace. Often times the more obscure the item, the stronger my desire to find it. I’m not exactly sure how this album got back into my head, nearly a quarter century after I originally came across it–one of ten records in one of the dollar “grab bags” my local record store used to sell–but it did, and once it did, I had to find it.
The name Hawks might not seem particularly imaginative, but it worked for this band on two levels: Iowa is the Hawkeye state, and it just so happens that the initials of the five last names of each band member spell the word “HAWKS” – Dave Hearn (keys, vocals); Larry Adams (drums); Frank Wiewel (bass, vocals); Kirk Kaufman (guitar, vocals) and Dave Steen (guitar, vocals.) Perhaps their strongest influence is the Beatles; on the dust jacket of the original LP the band included a brief tribute to then-recently murdered John Lennon. The introduction of “Let Me In” strongly resembles that of “Strawberry Fields Forever.” However, the record can also be seen as a sort of time-capsule of the late ’70s and early ’80s in music: the steel guitar and vocal harmonies on “Right Away” could have come off an Eagles record while “Dancing in the Shadows” is a guitar-riff heavy track with a four-on-the-floor beat that perhaps tips its cap to disco. Harmonically, several songs transcend the typical structure of chord progressions and show a jazz influence similar to Chicago or the Doobie Brothers.
If the songs have a weakness it’s the lyrics; they’re not ’80s embarrassing but they don’t stand out. “Lonely Nights” is an uptempo track that provides ear candy in the style of the Cars but its lyrics, describing a breakup in the way that pop songs have since the 1950s, are disposable. In “American Girls”, the band embraces a minimalist New Wave sound but fails to give any of the titular ladies any depth of memorability (it’s no “88 Lines about 44 Women.”) Expect rhymes along the lines of “Okay/Day” and “Imagination/nation.” The vocals are generally solid but not exceptional.
Hawks released a second record in 1982 and was in the process of recording their third when they were dropped from Columbia. The various members of the band have remained active since then and were inducted into the Iowa Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
For another review of Hawks’ first record, click here.