Darren Hayman and the Secondary Modern – Essex Arms


Darren Hayman is the former singer and main brain behind indie rock group Hefner.  He’s a solo artist now, and the music he makes has a more stripped-down folky quality, but with the same feeling and the same themes.  Darren’s songs are melodic, tender, and the lyrics are almost invariably acerbically witty.  They have a private, unedited quality to them, as if he wrote them for himself, never intending to share them with an audience, and decided rather spontaneously to let us hear them, too.

‘Be Lonely’ and ‘Dagenham Ford’ are melancholic odes to the memory lingering after particular moments, yellowing snapshots of Darren’s life that the listener can only empathise with from afar.  The specificity of the lyrics, the descriptions of situations, make it clear that this is not a universal experience, this is Darren’s world and we’re just guests in it.  ‘Spiderman Beats Ironman’ isn’t really about the two superheroes, but rather about the unresolved issues in a relationship.  ‘Plastic and Steel’ has a jangly quality and gorgeous harmonies which remind me somewhat of 60’s artists Pearls Before Swine or The Byrds.  ‘Calling Out Your Name Again’ is a more upbeat tune about a broken relationship.  (See a pattern here?)  It has a gorgeous instrumental break which sounds somewhat like it was recorded with an electric ukelele and is well worth hearing.  ‘Nothing You Can Do About It’ is another such deceptively upbeat tune, a bright little ditty about bitterness in love.  These songs are much more like Darren’s older material with Hefner, which were musically more textured and often had biting, sharp lyrics contrasted with upbeat melodies. The Smiths also put this tactic to good use throughout their entire career, though I wouldn’t compare the two bands much further than that.

His older solo albums, as well as his material with Hefner, is worth seeking out, especially their first album, which is by any reckoning an indie classic.  In January, Darren recorded a new song every day of the month, as well as putting up videos on Youtube and Facebook about this process of songwriting.  If you go to his website, you can listen to the songs and find links to purchase high quality digital downloads of all 31 January songs.  He has no plans as of yet to release the January material on a physical cd.  The best of the bunch is probably ‘My Dirty Widow,’ a hauntingly melodic, confusing song which could be about being in love with a cougar, or could be about being in love with someone who’s unfaithful and not being bothered by it, or both.  Check it out at:  www.hefnet.com



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