There's good news and bad news.
First, here's the bad. So-Cal dance-rock band Hellogoodbye's debut album, Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs!, is slightly incongruous and, at times, frustratingly cluttered.
The good news? Despite the sporadic bouts of disarray, it's nearly impossible to resist. Produced by Self's Matt Mahaffey (who has also worked with Pink, Beck and Smash Mouth), the first five tracks come straight from '80s heaven, plus a dash of new-wave and emo swagger. It's the perfect combination of vocoder vocals, spastic synths, and quixotic grandeur.
First single "Here (In Your Arms]" sounds like the glorious soundtrack of a climactic big screen prom scene - and we mean that as a compliment. The Tommie Sunshine remixes don't trump the original, yet they somehow succeed in further complicating the distinction between Hellogoodbye and New Order or perhaps The Cure at their most melodic.
After that initial burst of dance party energy, things slow down considerably on "Oh, It Is Love," which begins as a tender lullaby and finishes with Broadway bombast. It's lovely, but it comes too quickly after the album's rather raucous first half. This small flaw was probably inevitable, as front man Forrest Kline explains. "That was the goal - that each song was approached individually," he said in a press release. "I didn't want to sound all over the place but I wanted each song to be its own song and have its own sound."
The second half of the album revisits the vigor of the first, if only intermittently. "Baby, It's Fact" is another quirky bright spot, and while "Figures A and B (Means You and Me)" lacks originality (it could be a b-side for Fall Out Boy or The All-American Rejects), it still inspires plenty of flailing about.
Altogether, Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs! promises to liven up any occasion. Despite a few minor missteps, it's an impressive first outing for a lively, youthful act.