And yet for the listener, the melancholy of Hats doesn’t need to be explicitly lovelorn—this could easily soundtrack the life of somebody who travels too much for business and spends a lot of time in bad hotel rooms. Had I had this my freshman year of college when I completely alienated myself with the excuses of terrible social skills and anxiety, I would have skulked around campus listening to this instead of the Jesus and Mary Chain. It’s prime raincoat music, with the silvery chic of Bryan Ferry at his best, the lyrical mythology of Prefab Sprout, the synthetic string sentimentality of OMD, and a razor-sharp specificity all its own. Johnny Black of Q rightly said that “if Hats has a flaw, it’s only that it’s too perfect, too considered.” The band’s engineer, Calum Malcolm, similarly recalled that “they were always particularly sensitive to not doing the wrong thing and making sure it had absolutely the right emotional impact: there were times when I’m sure everyone else felt something was done and then someone would throw a spanner in the works over some little thing.” It’s surgically precise music made by people who, owing to their lack of musical background, invented a language all their own, and the language is still perfect to this day. By the end of “Saturday Night,” the last of seven expansive and heartbreaking tracks, you want to cry, both because of the record and because the record is over. Thankfully Hats lends itself particularly well to repeat listenings.