Maybe because it was they were fellow Southerners, but to my ears, very few bands took up the jangly guitar challenge issued by early R.E.M. better than The Connells. And not just because their name was practically “Connelly” either.
And while that name might have helped me notice them, the rip-roaring anthem “Hats Off” is what sealed the deal.
Kicking off their debut album Darker Days with a backwards guitar whoosh! “Hats Off” is four minutes of pure 80s indie bliss. And it employs a neat trick — it delays the chorus until almost halfway through the song, which makes it a surprise and a peak. For the first part of the song, you’re assuming that the main hook is:
Why are you so blind?
Why are you so hopelessly helpless?
So hopelessly helpless?
For whatever reason, I so much love the way lead singer Doug MacMillan phrases “hope-less-lee HEL-pless” that would probably be enough for me, but when they finally hit the anthemic chorus the second way through the song, it becomes a stone cold classic.
After that, driven by Peele Wimberly’s powerful drumming and Mike Connell’s lead guitar, “Hats Off” becomes pretty much all guitars and chorus for the the rest of the way. This was the kind of song that I probably played a zillion times on KFSR, as it had the perfect combination of speed, power, melody and jangle.
Fan-made video for “Hats Off”