After making nary a ripple with its 1980 Stiff Records debut, the Montreal band Men Without Hats achieved worldwide fame two years later with the music video for its signature song, "Safety Dance." In the clip, principal hatless man Ivan Doroschuk leaps about in an Old English shire amid maypole dancers, mummers and a dwarf in harlequin pants. The clip's excess rendered it an instantly dated novelty number, though its octave-leaping synth hook remains a classic. But a goofy image can be fatal, especially if every lyric is delivered with excruciating seriousness. They had one more hit left in them, "Pop Goes the World," and that was pretty much it. Following a stab at a "Jazz Odyssey"-style overhaul, the Men, with their lack of hats now made plain, wisely took an extended leave of absence.
By the time they ducked back in with 2003's No Hats Beyond This Point, the world had become a friendlier place for purveyors of propulsive, hook-filled synth-pop. The band performed with a retooled lineup at SXSW in 2011 before delivering the surprisingly solid Love in the Age of War. The pastoral allusions are gone, but what remains is sleek and satisfying. No longer the jerkin-clad man flipping his hair around in the countryside, Doroschuk has grown into his theatrically dour baritone and gained some gravitas. Fear not: The words of "Safety Dance"—"You can act like an imbecile"—remain. —David Klein