Hefner – The Fidelity Wars
Fans of Hefner rejoice. Almost ten years after the original, Darren Hayman has re-issued The Fidelity Wars. As Hayman has managed to wrest control of the Hefner back catalogue from the record company, you can at least be assured that this hasn't been dreamt up as a way of making money by some marketing exec.
The name Hefner was always somewhat ironic. For whilst, as John Peel observed, ‘it’s always about sex with Hefner’ Darren Hayman’s lyrics never evoked the Playboy boss after whom he took his groups moniker. Not for him perfect 10 Playboy playmates – his infidelities were always more likely to be with girls like the eponymous muse of Fat Kelly’s Teeth of whom he observed ‘in the cold light she’s not so pretty/ But if I drink more gin her grace might return.’
The album loosely charts the story of Hayman falling in love and splitting up with a girl (who he did subsequently marry.) The strengths and weaknesses of the album; and of Hefner generally, are as they ever were. Hayman's voice is as awkward and potentially distracting as ever. Yet it works in the context of the music as it feels heartfelt. The great strength surely lies in the lyrics which skew the conventions of pop lyrics. So, for example, The Hymn for the Alcohol and The Hymn for the Cigarettes whilst dealing with two staples of rock music take them not as exemplars of the rock and roll lifestyle but instead as markers in the rise and fall of relationships and infidelity. In The Hymn for the Alcohol this is taken further, so that not only do the various drinks mark the points of the failing relationship ('I'm not good enough for whisky, not good enough for you') but are even used as a means of attempting to re-ignite the relationship (It's just wishful thinking that all this hard drinking/ Might lead you back to my ramshackle stable').
‘But’ I hear you ask ‘this is a re-issue – what about the extras?’ Well they are indeed as copious as one might wish. Disc one is bolstered with the whole of the rather wonderful Hefner Heart EP, containing such gems as The Hymn To The Things We Didn’t Do and The Hymn for Thomas Courtney Warner (probably the only pop song to begin with the line ‘All this land was privately owned in the late 1800's’). Added to this are three rather grand b-sides. Disc two is one primarily for the completists, featuring as it does a slew of 4-track demos and rehearsals. The quality of the material on this disc is understandably patchy, but does offer a nice in sight into the band and how the material developed. This second disc is probably worth it anyway, if only for the 7" version of The Hymn for the Alcohol which adds some rather nice slide guitar into the mix, lending a plaintive air to proceedings. All in all a very worthwhile re-issue.
Words: Stuart Crosse