London band Hefner have built up quite a cult following over the last few years. Their last album, We Love The City, was a rather ironically titled tribute to their home town and was probably their most complete album yet. Now, less than a year later, comes the follow up, Dead Media, and it’s a bit of a departure for Darren Hayman and company.
The David Byrne-alike vocals are still present and correct, as are the spiky and original lyrics. The biggest surprise though is that Hefner seem to have fallen in love with the analogue synthesiser. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing of course; the opening title track certainly grabs the attention, awash with synth chords and Hayman gently singing “we killed the digital whores last Thursday”. Quite what all this means is unclear, but it sounds fantastic. Even better is the forthcoming single, Alan Bean, an oddly touching tale of the forgotten fourth man on the moon who gave up space travel to paint pictures of astronauts. “I found a greater truth, at a higher altitude/won’t waste another day of my life”, and you can’t say fairer than that.
However, all the synth sounds do tend to grate after a while, and a fair few of the songs just plain don’t work. When The Angels Play Their Drum Machines sounds as clumsy as the title suggests, and there’s a definite ’80s, slightly dated feel to some of the tracks. What is good to report though, is that Darren Hayman’s lyrics are as abrasive as ever. The lyrical highlight of Dead Media has to be Peppermint Taste, an ode to an old teenage flame – “Do you work in a bank? Did you marry a banker?…I bet you kiss your banker like a banker’s wife should”. Bitterness has never sounded so good, nor so funny.
Waking Up To You is the band’s now obligatory idiosyncratic love song – “The government is evil, but I won’t let them hurt you… love me quick with slutty lips” – now there’s a chat up line down the pub for this weekend, lads. Here, the drum machines and keyboards work quite beautifully, and the result is easily the best thing on the album.
Overall, Dead Media is a somewhat uneven album. There are moments of brilliance here, but nothing to touch earlier songs such as Hymn For The Cigarettes or The Day That Thatcher Dies. It probably won’t gain the band any new fans, indeed you fear the new direction may lose them a few. Which would be a shame, as we need more bands like Hefner and to share their quirky view of the world with us.