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Customer Review

VINE VOICEon 1 October 2001
Hefner's fourth studio album in as many years is the first to make a major departure from their original guitar led sound, and is all the better for it. In all honesty, the excellent and varied We Love The City had taken that path as far as it could go, providing their most accessible and pop moment to date. The only thing wrong with that marvellous LP was that - if you had the previous ones - you could hear some of the songs being repeated, albeit with different instrumentation and lyrics. Dead Media is laden with keyboards and synthesizers, and this change of tack has helped reintroduce originality to Darren Hayman's songwriting.
In many ways, Dead Media is most closely related to Hefner's debut EP, The Hefner Heart, than anything that has followed. There are a hatful of songs here that almost anyone would wished to have written - opening track Dead Media with it's layered synthesizer; Alan Bean, sounding so much freer here than as a single; the sing-a-long Half a Life, and the lilting almost Fairport Convention-esque refrain of Home are all excellent examples of great songwriting matched by intelligent instrumentation. There are other moments here too that lift the album above the competition - the brief interludes of Union Chapel Day and Treacle, the witty link between the opening track and Trouble Kid. Everywhere Hefner's sense of humour and understanding of music remain intact, even if the sound has changed.
There is a fly in the ointment, however. Whereas We Love The City and - in particular - The Fidelity Wars were incredibly consistent records, without any filler whatsoever, the same can not be said of Dead Media. Amongst the 15 tracks, there are 3 or 4 that don't make the grade. Ironically, it's often the tracks that sound most like people expect Hefner to sound that have this problem - Peppermint Taste and The King of Summer being the prime villains. Having said that, this is still a great album. Hefner may have changed from being the lovechild of Elvis Costello and The Tom Robinson Band to being Gary Numan and Kraftwerk's nephew, but the essence of their sound remains intact and they're still not quite like anybody else around at the moment.
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