Album Reviews

Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern – Pram Town

(Track & Field) UK release date: 26 January 2009

Darren Hayman - Pram Town Pram Town is a catchy acoustic concept album from ex-Hefner frontman Darren Hayman, in conjunction with his Secondary Modern outfit. Broadly based around the Essex new town of Harlow, it’s an intriguing procession through some of the ups and downs of suburban life, replete with great lyrics. The artwork is also worth a mention – the font and illustration complement the theme, taking their cue from the 1950s.

The album opens with the languorous pace of Civic Pride, which has an end-of-the-evening feel to it, and a big brass section. We’re quickly moved on to the uplifting lyrics depicting an idyllic, modern town with the album’s eponymous track. Whilst mentions of roundabouts aplenty might suggest Milton Keynes, the repeated line “how could you live anywhere else” certainly suggests otherwise. Praise is lavished upon the town’s extensive cycle track network.

More jauntiness features in the delightfully named Compilation Cassette (none of that emphatically non-U mixtape rubbish for Mr Hayman, it would appear) which depicts a blossoming relationship. The romantic atmosphere continues in No Middle Name where we find our protagonist putting square pegs into round holes, ‘cos she’s worth it. L’Oreal would be proud.

Electro-beeps make their debut on Our Favourite Motorway, a paean to those gleaming hulks of tarmac through the green belt, complete with multitudes of service stations. There are a few nice touches here, including references to brown vinyl seats and sour lemon travel sweets, which conjures up images of day-trips to the seaside. Some Beriut-esque guitar playing opens Out Of My League, a decidedly non-cheery number featuring a coke-addled beau and a chap with low self-esteem. It soars from the half-way point, and then proceeds to gently glide you back to earth by the finish, in time for a nice cup of tea and a sit down. Aww.

We’re duly informed that the best band to come out of Harlow combined death metal and R’n’B in Amy And Rachel. Guitar-plucking boppiness ensues, as well as a light dusting of wind instruments. There’s even a bit of talking through one’s guitar in the style of Peter Frampton, at the very end. Rock on. Fire Stairs builds as the song goes on, with potential for lengthy Hey Jude-style live performances – in a good way. And it has some nice violin playing going on the background. You can never have enough violins.

The generally breezy tone then proceeds to take a dip, with suburban ennui, fallings-out and a gentle pace being the hallmarks of Leaves On The Line, as the title might suggest. The lyrical trend continues into High Rise Towers In Medium Size Towns – during the course of which we also discover the reasoning behind the album’s title.

A plummy accent makes reference to the baby boom, and that “Pram Town was the label given by the press some years ago.” Whilst Hayman sings about the legacy of new towns, and isn’t especially full of praise, the tune itself is upbeat, and goes so far as to feature the dulcet tones of a banjo.

Three old lesbians lying in a bed? Good Christ. They’re the first of several groups who feel a distinct lack of space in Room To Grow. There’s a hint of lounge music about this one. Maybe it’s just the blocks being played in the background. Respite from his cramped situation seems to be found in the concluding song on the album, Big Fish, in which he resolves to move out of his present locale. Or that’s the implication, at least.

This is an enjoyable album, musically and lyrically, which depicts suburban life in an amusingly sardonic manner. If you’ve enjoyed previous instalments of Hayman’s many and varied output, this is well worth a listen.

buy Darren Hayman MP3s or CDs
Spotify Darren Hayman on Spotify

More on Darren Hayman
Darren Hayman – Home Time
Darren Hayman, Mount Eerie, Marika Hackman… This Week In Gigs
Darren Hayman – Thankful Villages Vol. 3
Darren Hayman – Thankful Villages Vol. 2
Darren Hayman – Thankful Villages Vol. 1