The new album from ex-Hefner man Darren Hayman and his band of folk-rock renegades is their finest work to date.
Essex Arms is the new album by Darren Hayman And The Secondary Modern. Darren, of course, is best known as the singer-songwriter of the successful and much-loved Hefner, although it’s worth noting that he has now made six albums to Hefner’s four. In the latest incarnation of the Secondary Modern he has gathered together a set of musicians with the chops to do justice to his increasingly complex and mature songs; a tight, tough, but soulful folk-rock orchestra reminiscent of a more urban Incredible String Band or an Anglicized Lambchop.
The second in a proposed trilogy of albums about Hayman’s home county of Essex, Essex Arms is a conceptual piece about the East Anglian rural underbelly. Whereas Pram Town (2009) dealt with the displacement and ennui of living in a new town (Harlow) – and received the best reviews of Hayman’s post-Hefner career – Essex Arms takes the narrative to the countryside.
“The songs are about love in unloved places,” says Darren. “I wanted to sing about a lawless, hidden version of the countryside, but still treat the subject with tenderness and respect.”
Illicit sex in car parks (‘Cocoa Butter’), staged dog fights in forests (‘I’ll Be Your Alibi’), joyrides (‘Spiderman Beats Ironman’), car crashes (‘Drive Too Fast’, ‘Plastic and Steel’) and the death of industry (‘Dagenham Ford’) are all dealt with, but true love is never far away. Throughout, Hayman’s distinctive estuarine vocals weave his weary, bucolic ballads and slanted rural revelries against an almost baroque, chamber-folk background.
“I was trying to make innovative rock music without the use of electrically amplified instruments. I wanted oboes and harmoniums to take the place of synthesizers and samplers, to make something purely acoustic that wasn’t polite or ineffectual.”
Featuring contributions from The Wave Pictures, Fanfarlo and, on the single ‘Calling Out Your Name’, a duet with Emmy the Great, Essex Arms achieves all that and more as Hayman paints his pictures of love and squalor in the fields and lanes on the edge of London, in the process reaffirming his credentials as one of Britain’s finest living songwriters.
“London's laureate of sexual dysfunction, discomfort, and dog-eared under-achievement... the match of Ray Davies, or any of the quintessentially English masters.” (The Guardian)
released October 4, 2010
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