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Concert Fri Aug 01 2014
By Phil Huckelberry
In 1998, an English pop-rock band released their first album. You probably didn't hear about it. It came out on a very hip indie label, but remained mostly unknown on this side of the Atlantic. This was back in the day of listservs — run off of obscure university servers and beloved by the internet's earliest adopters. On one such listserv a guy named Spencer insisted that we all had to listen to this band Hefner.
Many years later, I rank Hefner's debut album, Breaking God's Heart, as one of my top ten albums of all time. It contains brilliant pop songs, mostly about relationships and their attendant failures. The subject matter seemed universally familiar even while totally off the wall. Nobody else was writing breathtaking love songs about witches and librarians, all while bemoaning the state of British politics. The tenderness in the first song, "The Sweetness Lies Within," slams against harried guitars, creating not a strange juxtaposition but instead the appropriate sonic context for how insane it is to be young and single and not single and single again. At times it was like finally hearing what everybody else had to have been thinking all along.
Darren Hayman was the singer, main songwriter, and guitarist for Hefner. His melodies were surpassed only by his Dickensian lyrics. The signature song off the first album was called "Love Will Destroy Us In The End," but to this day it's unclear whether that's ultimately meant as a good thing or not. As the era of irony was reaching its peak, Hayman — hardly a purveyor of irony himself — had become the most ironic figure of all in mind: a spokesman for the era, even though nobody else in the U.S. seemed to know he was there. His best known song is probably the scathingly jaunty "The Day That Thatcher Dies", which somehow pulls together class politics, a horn section, and a chorus extracted wholesale from no less than The Wizard of Oz.
After Hefner's demise, Hayman released one bizarre electronic album, Local Information, with new band The French. Only after some time did Hayman reemerge under his own name with solo albums Table For One and The Secondary Modern, which became the name of his new backing band. By this point Hayman had already developed quite an extensive website, releasing singles or EPs on a regular basis, and also offering numerous videos.
On Tuesday, August 5, at the Chopin Theatre (1543 W. Division St.), Darren Hayman will make an incredibly rare U.S. appearance. Tickets are $10 and are available online. Including a concert last weekend in New York, this will be only his second concert in the U.S. in the last 15 years. Coltrane Motion opens. 21+