Darren Hayman

Home Time

Former Hefner frontman gets back to basics on an album full of lost loves and deft lyrical turns, finds Tom Bolton

Home Time is a break-up record, twelve songs about relationships that have ended. It is something of a return to his roots for Hayman, who first appeared in 1990s indie band Hefner before, in recent years, forging a path as a chronicler of landscape and memory. He has written albums about lidos and Essex, and most recently his three Thankful Villages albums toured the fifty-four British villages which did not lose anyone during World War I. He wrote a song for each, combining oral history with contemplative songwriting.

Home Time is a conscious attempt to go back to basics, using shorter songs, only acoustic instruments and eight-track recording. It is also about the supposed stuff of pop music – boys and girls – but there is nothing simple about the expressions of joy, loss, and regret that sweep through the album.

Hayman’s lyrics have always been unmistakable, with his narrative style and unabashed love of rhymes. If you liked Hefner, you will enjoy the return to their style on Home Time, which is engaging, touching and often funny. ‘Because We Were Impossible’ is a list of the reasons it didn’t work, from “because I wore a Lou Reed t-shirt” to “because I almost cared”, narrated with too much affection to be healthy. The acoustic performances are mutli-layered, and Hannah Winter and Laura K provide pleasantly Antipodean backing vocals on several tracks, adding depth and texture.

The tone of Home Time will not appeal to everyone. ‘Dinosaur Plate’, for example, which splits the belongings between him and her, could be seen as too cute for its own good. Hayman is always heading towards the lyrical pay-off, which can make the album seem more concerned with couplets and neat turns of phrase than emotional resonance. The simpler songs work best, such as ‘I Tried and I Tried and I Tried But I Failed’ which contains all its lyrics in its title and sounds like an outtake from 69 Love Songs by The Magnetic Fields. ‘I Want to Get Drunk’ is a proper anthem, with the words at the service of the song, which uses a dragging, bass-driven march to build a complex, compelling song that, at one point, drops into a woman’s account of drinking shots.

Home Time is an album by a songwriter whose distinctive style has more than a little of the music hall. Hayman is a modern storyteller whose curiosity means he just cannot stop uncovering material.

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