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Essex Arms
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Essex Arms

Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern
11 Oct. 2010 | Format: MP3

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From the tired jokes about 'Essex Girls', to the recent reality show 'The Only Way is Essex', the county that fascinates Darren Hayman has taken an unfair battering. 'Essex Arms', the second part of Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern's proposed "Essex Trilogy" attempts to redress that balance, amidst an array of largely excellent, melodic and surprisingly varied songs. But whilst the previous 'Pram Town' had dealt with urban Essex, most notably Hayman's own experience of Harlow; 'Essex Arms' takes us into the county's more rural landscape. It is a region superbly evoked over most of the 12 tracks on offer. Lyrically the album is a bit hit and miss, but when it's good, it is absolutely superb. The heartbreakingly romantic closer, the ostensibly jaunty, but troubled 'Nothing You Can Do About It' is definitely the album's masterpiece, but on tracks like 'I'll Be Your Alibi' and 'Two Tree Island', Hayman & TSM draw out sensuous portraits of romance, friendship and the enigmatic landscape the album focuses on. Musically, TSM are a superb foil for Hayman's aching, heartfelt vocals, with a combination of catchy percussion, jangling guitars, and lamenting pianos.

Whilst Darren Hayman's albums, like those of Hefner, have produced some wonderful tracks; they've tended to possess a little inconsistency as well. As fantastic as stretches of 'Essex Arms' are, it's a criticism I would also label at this album. The opener 'Be Lonely' is a bit of a whiney dirge, whilst 'Winter Makes You Want Me More' is an interesting idea for a song, but the track itself is rather self-indulgent and repetitive. Equally, whilst some of the album's lyrics are truly memorable and powerful; there are a handful of pretty naff lines and rhymes which spoil one or two songs a touch.
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Format: Audio CD
This is great great album. If your reading this then it is more than likely you used to like Hefner, which I certainly did. I have listened to most if not all the post hefner material from Darren (which there is a lot) and I have to say this album is the best of the lot. At times with some of the other solo material it sounded to me like Darren was trying a little too hard to separate himself from the music Hefner made. I'm not saying that is a bad thing but some of the songs on other albums seem to be lacking something.

Howevr, with this album it seems like Darren is really writing from the heart and this is most natural his songs have sounded since We love the City. I love the organic acoustic sound and some of the songs actually remind of Alt Country pioneers Lambchop.

The opening track is very melancholic but so beautiful with it and then things really hit a peak with track four 'The winter makes me want you more' with an ending that harks back to the classic Greedy ugly People from We Love the city.

Track 9 - Spiderman v ironman could again sit easily anywhere in the Darren's back catalogue and then the final song Nothing you can do about it is quite simply fantastic.

No doubt this album will be criminally underlooked (as was the album titled Darren Hayman and the Secondary Modern with a dog on the cover) but it is sublime and well worth the money. Would love to see it performed live in its entirety. And for the record i think it is streaks ahead of Pram Town which has garnered favourable reviews but for me this album tops it by a long way.
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