Tally Hall falls short of party potential

Concertgoers at last week’s First Fridays would find headline band Tally Hall hard to describe. Upon arriving in Lasell Gymnasium, attendees were met with the usual snacks and drinks – and a small table where a woman was selling Tally Hall tattoos from a circus-like vending machine. The display was ostensibly in accordance with Tally Hall’s newly released, variety-show themed album Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum, and was a good indicator of where the night was about to head: mixed-up, musical mayhem. Though their CD features mostly upbeat, poppy tunes with just enough nuances to distinguish them from other pop contemporaries, Tally Hall’s music hardly translated well to the stage.

The night began on what seemed like a good note with the song “Good Day,” which begins, appropriately, “I’d like to say hello and welcome you, good day, that is my name.” The opening line, sung without music, is then followed by a what sounds like a bouncy piano intro (but one which actually returns for much of the piece), which is then followed by a completely incongruous, high-gain guitar riff, then a return to the piano music before a slower, whiny interlude.

Other songs, like “The Bidding” and “Rule of Everything,” were similarly frustrating in their treatment of changes in sound and rhythm, moving constantly from fast to slow, loud to soft and everything in between without warning. The incongruity of the music meant the only people who felt comfortable dancing were the over-involved grinders, staples at every party whose token slow-swaying refuses to be affected by even the gaps between songs, let alone nuances in tone or rhythm.

Maybe to help lift some of the load off our brains – which were working overtime, attempting the nearly impossible task of trying to look cute while having to switch dancing styles every 30 seconds – Tally Hall interspersed among their rhymes of renegade rhythms, songs like “Greener” and “Just Apathy,” so rhythmically boring they reduced the crowd to mindless bouncing with one arm in the air.

The rest of the original songs the band played were like bizarre circus tunes, featuring sounds like the atonal rapping of “Welcome to Tally Hall,” which at certain points required a megaphone to further metallicize the singer’s voice.

Then, as if their own synthesis of sounds wasn’t enough, the band also threw in Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” and “Praise You” by Fatboy Slim, at various points throughout the evening. (The differences between these two songs only serves to further highlight how all-over-the-place the music coming from the stage really was.) Though it was nice to hear something I recognized, playing music that reflected how poor the band’s original pieces were was probably a bad choice.

The highlight of the evening was Tally Hall’s most famous piece, “Banana Man,” one deserving of the its title because it sounds unlike any of the other Tally Hall tunes. The song’s Caribbean-influences made for a fun dance piece.

Though the band’s quirkiness and creativity may be amusing to observe in the comedy skits on their Web site, it translates less cohesively to their music. When played in public, their efforts resulted only in circles of friends awkwardly trying to negotiate whether this was meant to be a dance concert (oh th’inconstant music) or a social event with a live band (but it’s so loud!), Tally Hall was probably not the best choice for a group of hyped-up college kids looking for fun on a Friday night.