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We Love the Metropolis. Hefner.
2000, Too Pure. Producer: Hefner.
IN A NUTSHELL: We Love the Metropolis, by comparatively unknown British band Hefner, is a document of sensible melodies that present sufficient cowl for chief Darren Hayman’s soul-baring lyrics that the listener doesn’t really feel uncomfortable. Whether or not singing about unhappiness and loss or giddiness and love, and even politics or intercourse, the band may have you singing together with gusto, so that you gained’t have the ability to cry. And that’s what retains me listening repeatedly.
NOTE: The setup – under the line ↓ – may be the better part … Or skip proper to the album dialogue.
Once I was younger, elementary faculty by way of highschool, and even into school, I used to be an enormous fan of Charlie Brown. At Ebenezer Elementary Faculty, I commonly purchased Peanuts books (principally comedian strips in paperback format) from the Scholastic Guide Membership to complement the pile of Peanuts books my sisters and I had acquired as hand-me-downs from older cousins. Along with these books that compiled day by day strips, corresponding to Thompson Is In Hassle, Charlie Brown, and You’re a Pal, Snoopy, we owned a slim, sq. e-book referred to as Happiness is a Unhappy Track, that includes Linus on the cowl, a radio by his aspect, wanting something however pleased. It confused me.
The ebook contained a number of single-sentence declarations of happiness, similar to “Happiness is having something to look forward to,” and “Happiness is waking up, looking at the clock and finding you have two hours left to sleep,” accompanied by drawings of the basic Peanuts crew: Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Snoopy, and so forth. Most of the statements described happiness very nicely to me, and made sense. However a Unhappy Music? It says proper there, it’s “sad,” not “happy!” How can a tragic track be completely happy? It was a type of bizarre, grown-up, inexplicable issues that made no sense to younger me, like my grandma’s declare that Coke was “too sweet.”
And now, as a bizarre grown-up, I’ve to say that I utterly perceive what Linus meant. (I additionally perceive now that my grandma was a diabetic, which is why she drank that disgusting TaB cola.) Unhappy songs do make me – and many different individuals – joyful. And it seems that it’s not simply because I’ve been clinically depressed at numerous occasions in my life, and it’s not as a result of I’m usually sad or a curmudgeon or a fuddy-duddy. I could also be all these issues, however the cause unhappy songs make me completely happy, it seems, is, properly, difficult. Nevertheless it’s been proven to be greater than a bizarre, grown-up contradiction.
There have been unhappy songs all over the place for so long as there have been songs, I’m positive, however I’m not going to get into requiem music or people songs or songs from different cultures. I deal in pop/rock, and unhappy pop/rock songs are sometimes – however not all the time – about misplaced love. The Adele mega-hit “Someone Like You,” scientifically confirmed to impress tears, could also be the greatest instance of a lost-love sad-song. It’s extra-sad as a result of not solely is the music unhappy, but in addition its lyrics usually are not simply “I’m sad ’cause you left,” however “I’m sad ’cause you left, and I’m trying to be happy for you,” which will increase the sad-factor by at the very least three.7x, if scientific research are to be believed1. Individuals love lost-love/breakup songs.
The 70s light-rock band Bread made a profession out of unhappy break-up songs: “Diary,” “Everything I Own,” “If,” “Lost Without Your Love.” Every was a top-15 hit between 1971 and 1976. Their model of mopey, depressive Loser-abilia landed in the sad-song sweet-spot – the early 70s, an period which have to be the apex (or nadir, relying in your perspective) of unhappy pop songs. The charts have been crammed with maudlin odes to all types of woe. Along with break-up songs, like “Alone Again (Naturally),” “All By Myself,” and “Without You,” have been scores of songs about tragic demise. There have been tragic deaths of younger husbands (“The Night time the Lights Went Out in Georgia“), tragic deaths of younger wives (“Rocky“), younger fiancees (“Billy Don’t Be a Hero“), younger obvious fiancees (“Run, Joey, Run“), the younger singer himself by his personal hand (“Seasons in the Solar“), younger sailors by the dozens (“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald“) and an Irish Setter (“Shannon“). By 1976 the music world was so depressed, it NEEDED punk rock and disco!!
Songwriters know the world likes to cry alongside to music, they usually do their greatest to oblige. In the early 60s, songs about the demise of younger lovers, comparable to “Last Kiss2” and “Leader of the Pack,” crammed the airwaves. Recognized to document executives as “sickies,” these songs have been churned out by individuals who thought younger demise was a hit-song formulation. Though demise is a simple strategy to jerk some tears, the components for unhappy songs doesn’t have to incorporate it. Nation-Western songwriters in all probability perceive the method (if there’s one) greatest; on Malcolm Gladwell’s terrific podcast “Revisionist History,” he makes the case that it’s as a result of they write with a specificity that their pop/rock counterparts can’t match. He additionally posits that the 1980 George Jones track “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” which (spoiler-alert) IS about demise, is the saddest music ever written. I heard it for the first time on that podcast in 2017, and I feel he could also be proper. (Right here is Alan Jackson singing the track at Jones’s funeral in 2013. Convey a tissue.)
Unhappy songs aren’t all the time resulting from the cautious planning of the songwriter. Songs may be unhappy due to the time and place you expertise them. For instance, the Wings music “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey,” whereas a bit wistful and downbeat at first, isn’t a very emotionally devastating music. Nevertheless, I skilled it as a boy together with a big accident in my household, and to this present day I discover it too unhappy, and I all the time flip it off. Equally, and doubtless extra bizarrely, I keep in mind the enjoyable Seashore Boys music “Good Vibrations” enjoying on the automotive radio one summer time day whereas driving to a Little League baseball recreation that was alleged to be the first recreation through which I’d play – and a sudden rainstorm washed out the recreation. I nonetheless have a tinge of unhappiness each time I hear it. Additionally, songwriters’ lyrics aren’t all the time what will get you: one among my favourite unhappy songs, “Nwahulwana,” by Wazimba & Orchestra Marrabenta Star De Mocambique, is sung in a language I don’t even perceive.
The factor is, apart from “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey,” I’ll take heed to, and luxuriate in, unhappy songs as a lot as another songs – although they will evoke chills and tingles and regretful reminiscences, and typically deliver tears to my eyes. Two of my favourite Beatles songs are “For No One” and “I’m So Tired,” two of their maybe lesser-known unhappy breakup songs. Elton John’s 80s interval wasn’t as fascinating to me as his 70s stuff, however I’ll all the time cease to take heed to “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues.” I really like The Replacements’ Paul Westerberg’s knack for tugging heartstrings, whether or not it’s over unrequited love (“Within Your Reach“) or being a misfit (“Here Comes a Regular“). When Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell killed himself, his song “Seasons” revealed new depths of unhappiness, but I’ll nonetheless take heed to it recurrently.
That being stated, I definitely don’t got down to purchase data which are unhappy. I like melody, guitar and drums. When these elements are there, I’m comfortable, and if some emotion can come alongside as nicely? That’s simply icing on the cake. And Hefner checks all the packing containers. They’re an indie band lively in the UK round the flip of the millennium who by no means hit it huge, however who did catch the ear of influential BBC DJ, John Peel. They by no means had any hits, however you don’t want hits to make my record – or to be well-loved by your followers. I nonetheless keep in mind the first time I heard a Hefner track. In 2000, I used to be a brand new dad in a brand new metropolis, and I met one other new dad/new metropolis man named Jon. He’s a tremendous man who, aside from being a PhD in some type of linguistics/robots/speech stuff, additionally publishes novels, performs in an unique rock band, and has a tremendous breadth of musical information and appreciation. Once I met him, he was additionally a DJ at an area radio station, and he gave me a cassette of one among his exhibits.
I listened in my automotive, driving to work, and the first music was this catchy, sunny melody that one way or the other appeared darkish and determined. It seemed like one thing from the late 70s, and the clearly British singer, regardless of a particular warble to his voice, had a confidence and earnestness that stood out. I assumed it have to be some established rock act that I’d all the time heard about but by no means listened to, the sort of artist that sells few data however has all the critics’ ears – like Nick Cave or The Smooth Boys. By the time the singer was screaming at the finish of the track, I needed to know who it was! The band was Hefner. I fell exhausting for the band – as arduous as bandleader Darren Hayman appears to fall for each lady in each track. I fell so onerous that I ultimately spent extra on a single Hefner report than I’ve ever spend earlier than or since, $40 for an import-only stay album referred to as Kick, Snare, Hats, Journey.
And that music I’d heard was “We Love the City.”
Up entrance I wrote about unhappy songs, however “We Love the City” isn’t unhappy in a “somebody died” type of means, or with a “Someone Like You” directness. The unhappiness is revealed slowly, with singer/songwriter Darren Hayman first singing lyrics lamenting the London subways and his girlfriend’s distance. As a delicate guitar line begins to accompany him, he describes a love/hate relationship with London, then turns somewhat all of the sudden to a collection of comparative adjectives (“I am intrigued, not merely curious,” and so on.) earlier than the supply his despair is revealed – his realization that his girlfriend doesn’t actually love him. The track has what I consider as a “classic Hefner buildup,” the band’s, and extra particularly Hayman’s, specialty: slowly ramping up the depth, verse-by-verse, till his feelings are laid naked. What saves it from being pathetic and embarrassing are the intelligent lyrics and – extra importantly – the wonderful melodies he writes. Each track is singalong catchy.
Take for instance the track “Good Fruit.” I sang alongside to this track fortunately for a very long time earlier than I actually listened intently and realized its lyrics describe a state of affairs most any human can relate to: somebody breaking apart with you simply if you thought the relationship was reaching a deeper degree.
The track options Amelia Fletcher from one other band I really like, Heavenly, on vocals. It’s a easy music, utilizing a delicate melodica, and it will get to its hooky verse shortly. Hayman has the look and sound of an unlucky-in-love schlub, careless together with his coronary heart, too desperate to fall in love, and by no means embarrassed by his declarations. He imbues all these songs with such emotion, and when he sings “you should stick around/ to hear me hit the ground,” it’s clear that he’s not truly contemplating leaping off a constructing, however that his coronary heart has been pushed off the ledge. I actually join with this music, perhaps as a result of I’ve felt this manner in my life however all the time stored it to myself, so it’s good to listen to any person singing it and making it actual.
However Hayman and the band aren’t depressive and mopey. They’re truly relatively humorous, as that video above exhibits, and as this video, that includes pretend nudity (all the time humorous), for a track from a unique album exhibits. However what Malcolm Gladwell famous about Nation & Western songs is true of Hefner: the songs’ lyrics have a specificity – particulars, observations – that present an emotional impression. Take, for instance, “Painting and Kissing,” which describes (in a really catchy, bouncy melody, in fact) the typical fizzling of a brief, intense relationship.
The music principally has two chords, and the opening scratchy guitar performs each of them. Hayman will get particular together with his vocals instantly, stating her identify (Linda), the place she lives (Holloway Rd.), the place they met (The Wig and Robe)… There’s an organ break between verses, and as he builds depth with every verse, he throws in terrific phrases that current a transparent picture of him and the relationship. “After a week or two … she was my girlfriend/but I couldn’t call her my girlfriend.” “The first time she came to my house/she brought Chardonnay/ Now I buy Chardonnay.” All the whereas the exasperation in his voice will increase, till “On March the 23rd” she dumps him. At three:45 the track stops for Hayman to plead for her return, after which these rattling two chords proceed, mimicking the rut one’s feelings can fall into. It’s a easy, terrific music, and for anybody who’s ever been on the improper aspect of an unbalanced love equation (i.e., the one that cares an excessive amount of) the track is true on course.
It’s not a tragic track per se, it’s only one with emotion and feeling introduced baldly in a method that’s not typically heard in rock. And though most of the songs are from Hayman’s perspective, he can sing from a unique perspective, as he does in “She Can’t Sleep No More,” a jaunty, country-sounding music with fascinating guitar behind the vocals, that tells the story of a lady who let the proper man get away.
Hayman additionally makes use of his intelligent lyrics and untethered emotions on songs about being in love – ostensibly with somebody who loves him again, though as a listener I do marvel if his companion could be a bit overwhelmed at occasions. “From Your Head to Your Toes” describes the entirety of his emotions for his love in a sort of lullaby. In “Hold Me Closer,” a piano based mostly music with terrific vocals from Amelia Fletcher, he sounds fantastic, till he admits he owes her his eyes and lips and arms… In “Don’t Go,” he sounds extra involved than is typical about his love probably leaving – and doesn’t appear to note how bossy he sounds. On “As Soon As You’re Ready” he tries to dial again his depth, however finally ends up sounding determined all the similar.
He additionally makes use of his lyrical presents to harshly, and fairly humorously, skewer former British PM and foe of the widespread individuals Margaret Thatcher in “The Day That Thatcher Dies.”
It’s virtually funky, for Hefner, with a sort of dance beat and horns. Youngsters gleefully sing “Ding-Dong! The witch is dead!” as Hayman discusses his political progress. As with love or unhappiness or intercourse, Hayman is direct and emotional about his politics.
Hayman’s voice and singing fashion make him sound like he’s baring his soul on each single word. But when Hefner’s songs have been merely needy, emotional exsanguinations, We Love the Metropolis can be horrible. What makes it work are the terrific melodies behind the phrases. Phrases are all the time secondary for me3. However once they work nicely with the melody and the efficiency, it’s magic. Take, for instance, “The Greedy Ugly People,” which bounces alongside identical to a coronary heart beneath new love’s spell.
Hayman units himself and his new girlfriend aside, from these horrible people who don’t perceive love. It’s a lyrical us-against-the-world motif that attracts the listener in, too: “I’m not a greedy, ugly person,” the listener says. “I know just what you mean!” A easy scratchy guitar opens the track. The verses and the refrain have an ideal melody, then a counter melody enters “Love don’t stop no wars …” which additionally sounds nice. I additionally like guitar, and most of the songs have one thing fascinating occurring on guitar – like the little bit behind the vocals right here, about one minute.
In the terrific “The Greater London Radio,” the music actually helps Hayman’s phrases, creating a sense of a cold winter night time, and including horn thrives at the finish to sign his return to his love.
It’s regal and heat and the swirling organs create a symphony behind the vocals. It might be my favourite track on the album. Or maybe my favourite track is the multi-part, Broadway-esque (and I is usually a sucker for present tune-type songs) “The Cure For Evil.”
To be trustworthy, no matter music I take heed to is my favourite on this report – I really like all of them. However this track appears a step past the others. It will definitely turns into a duet between Hayman and Fletcher, and this time it’s not simply Hayman’s anxieties set to music, but in addition their influence on another person. It begins with a easy piano phrase, and – as is typical – builds with every verse. He tries to elucidate that he’s a bit emotionally unwound, however that he’s rising and making an attempt and no less than conscious of his personal points. There’s good delicate guitar work, then at about 1:22, the music begins to bounce a bit and by 1:58 it hits its full stride. About 2:30 Fletcher (and a banjo!) enters. It marches alongside, horns enter, finish then by four:00 the huge finale (with flute!) hits.
The band has an understanding of the emotional influence of music. I wasn’t actually up on pop music taxonomy by the time this report got here out, however maybe they have been an “Emo Band?” They don’t scream a lot, or put on make-up and black trench coats, however Hayman places his emotions proper on the market, and I can empathize with all of them. Since they’re wrapped up in fascinating sounds and nice melodies, I can pay attention time after time. Linus was proper: Happiness is a Unhappy Music. Or a Love Music. Or an Indignant Music. So long as the melody’s catchy and the phrases are honest.
“We Love the City”
“The Greedy Ugly People”
“Painting and Kissing”
“Hold Me Closer”
“The Greater London Radio”
“As Soon As You’re Ready”
“She Can’t Sleep No More”
“The Cure For Evil”
“The Day That Thatcher Dies”
“Your Head to Your Toes”