Hallelujah the Hills go Psychosis on the Middle East

, Staff Writer

Rarely do entire albums translate successfully as live setlists, but Hallelujah the Hills proved that their debut Collective Psychosis Begone is an exception to the rule Saturday night at the Middle East Upstairs. Breezing through the ebbs and flows of the excellent album like grizzled veterans, Ryan Walsh and his bandmates treated the crowd to a commanding performance.

“Sleeper Agent (Just Waking Up)” set the tone for the night, with HtH beginning delicately and patiently ratcheting up the song’s tension. Walsh’s vocals, unadorned by layers of studio fuzz, and Elio DeLuca’s prominent lead guitar departed just enough from the recorded version.

Juggernaut “Wave Backwards to Massachusetts”, one of the album’s strongest songs, was perfect at its slightly sped up tempo. Band fight song “Hallelujah the Hills” was not as gleefully messy, but it’s precision and clarity made it all the more anthemic. “The House is All Lit Up”, on the other hand, was louder, dirtier, and ultimately prettier than its recorded counterpart.

The band was able to show its mastery of dynamics during “Raise the Flag of Your Sibling’s Favorite Daydream”, and drummer Eric Meyer made like Lonesome Crowded West-era Jeremiah Green during the extended noise rock outro.

Playing to the sold-out hometown crowd, Walsh invited concertgoers to yell insults and profanity at the band during “(the crux of the cameraman)”, the slow sing/swear-along soon giving way to the joyous release of “Slow Motion Records Broken at Break Neck Speeds”. “Records” led immediately into the sweetest pop song about grave robbing ever to come out of Boston, “Effie’s On The Other Side”.

“The Trap” played like a Built to Spill ballad, followed briefly by “Teenage Synesthete” from whence the album gets its name. The energy level skyrocketed for the power-pop of “It’s All Been Downhill Since the Talkies Started to Sing”, and the band reached dizzying heights during the insanely tight, speeding ending, which also incorporated some experimental jazz noodling.

A malfunctioning guitar produced the most poignant moment of the night, as Walsh was forced to move in front of the microphones and sing “To All My Scientist Colleagues I Bid You Farewell” aided only by his unamplified acoustic guitar and Brian Rutledge’s trumpet. Then the band joined in, and Walsh ditched his guitar for the main-set closing rock out.

The guitar problem was dealt with, and Walsh informed the crowd that the band had “a brand new one that we’re itching to play.” The song, “You Better Hope You Die Before Me” cribbed melody from The Beatles’ “Revolution” and the gallows humor over gleeful stomp from Modest Mouse’s “Float On”. It is the band’s most concise pop song, and it has I can’t believe this is on the radio smash written all over it.

After one more encore Walsh and company signed off, telling the crowd that “that’s all we know.” All I know is that Collective Psychosis Begone is one of the best records of 2007, and it made for what will surely be one of the best shows of 2008.

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