"It's a jolly, life-affirming tale of ordinary people; “Trevor you should be getting laid/instead of playing bingo with me”. Oofph!"
Darren Hayman – Table for One (Track and Field/Konkurrent)
I don't know if you know, but being an artist I'm a sucker for good art and presentation. Especially on CDs, as it's such a hard medium for artwork to cater for. It makes me biased in what I listen to first out of the stack of new releases that regularly gets posted off at the shed. This album is a case in point. I looked at it, I thought, nice artwork, and I stuck it on. That the music is pretty damned good is a big bonus, but really, you should buy it on the strength of the fact that the notes provide you with some decent cafes that haven't been turned into vile Coffee Republics serving ciabatta or some other nonsense in the name of modern taste.
Shall I talk about the music?
Opening with a sampled harpsichord loop Caravan starts very like the Move's Goodbye Blackberry Row, put it's sheer unadulterated enthusiasm allows Hayman to get away with it. It's a jolly, life-affirming tale of ordinary people; "Trevor you should be getting laid/instead of playing bingo with me". Oofph! The English Head starts off with a lot of nutty noises which then introduce Hayman's pithy comments and glottal delivery, genus M. Jagger. Soon the song, (about a teacher I think) develops into a Pulp-style tale of a type, with lots of references to 60s stars. Its good fun and upbeat - as a maudlin song in this vein usually drives me round the bend with fury.
Next up its Perfect Homes; a country style ballad that is replete with b bender guitar accompaniment. It's a lovely song, uplifting in a camp fire kind of way with a beautiful circular refrain. I suspect Hayman was in the Scouts. That's Not What She's Like is a caustic tale of womanhood in general. Pithy observations abound; A girl at her first day at work with "Please like me hair and fresh Marks and Spencer's skirt". Marvellous. There's a beautiful Super Furries keyboard coda in there somewhere too and as previously, this song builds up and up into a remarkable simpatico, sociable sing-along. With Grey Hairs we encounter a strange synth refrain (whatever happened to normal synths? Actually I now think its violin). It's a very soft love song, When I'm 64 style.
You should be getting the picture that this is a remarkably empathic, personal LP, content to express to sloppy feelings, but never getting too mawkish or self centred. This is true of You Chose Me, an elegy to a girl accompanied with accordion and ukulele that becomes a sprawling love song. It's also true of The National Canine Defence League which starts "A quarter Jack Russell/A quarter Beagle" and also boasts the line "He's only 14 but that's 60 in dog years" It's actually very affecting stuff. Hayman's heavily dubbed voice and plaintiff piano accompaniment sound at odds with the subject matter, but somehow it works. The Protons and the Neutrons is much more upbeat with its thumping drums. It's a great uplifting pop song with a set of charming sound effects and some class jangling guitar. It's another spiralling, uplifting song swirl that Hayman seems to specialise in, but who cares, such is the infectious nature of the song that any quibbles seem unfair.
Doug Yule's Velvet Underground answers Velvet's 1972 press advert. A charming piece that takes the piss out of late-era VU and other people we could mention... Everything's Wrong at the Wrong Time is a maudlin story of a rather pretentious young lady that soon finds itself accompanied by a strange choir and an astringent guitar fade out. A Wasted Year starts with a lovely Utopian synth clarion call, the thing you used to get on Eastern Bloc country TV shows. It settles down into another campfire sing-along which has the added advantage of a beautiful mandolin led-chorus. Its urban-hippy, Lady Jane-isms are out for all to see, and a bloody good thing too! Possibly the best song on the record. Last song up is Table for One, a heartfelt, guitar-led plea not to let the old things change (he's on about greasy spoons, kids).
Well, what a charmer. An unexpected pleasure I have to say. Check it out.
Words: Richard Foster.