The Fidelity Wars

Hefner

Too Pure, 1999

http://www.hefnet.com

REVIEW BY: Paul King

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/20/2007

“Breaking up is hard to do,” or so Neil Sedaka rather jovially insisted back in 1962, and that would certainly seem to be the case for Hefner’s lead singer, guitarist and songwriter Darren Hayman. But while it might be hard to do, it’s also rather useful in providing Hayman with a wealth of creative fuel that lifts the contents of Hefner’s second full-length album head and shoulders above the amateurisms of the band’s debut.

Although The Fidelity Wars is not a concept album in the traditional sense, the 11 tracks presented here are all concerned in some way with the end of a relationship and its emotional aftermath. Throughout the album, Hayman sifts forlornly through the debris of his broken love affairs and infidelities with the painstaking eye of a forensic scientist at a murder scene, putting his findings and conclusions on display in an unflinchingly honest collection of bittersweet love songs.

Recorded in just 12 days, The Fidelity Wars has a raw, quasi-live sound that perfectly suits the wounded and tortured subject matter of the songs. All of the material here has a minimalist guitar, bass and drums core with only the occasional additions of pedal steel, fiddle and theremin to embellish the stark sound and cradle Hayman’s dejected and impassioned vocals. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The album kicks off in fine style with the glorious “The Hymn For The Cigarettes,” a fast paced and nicotine-stained rumination on how the mind associates smells with people and places, juxtaposed with a narrative concerning the petty mind-games that a faltering romance cultivates. During the song, Hayman counts off the list of cigarette brands and what they remind him of before cryptically declaring that “B&H remind me of not giving up but giving in” and then in the rousing chorus that follows bizarrely asking “How can she love me when she doesn't even love the cinema that I love?”

“The Hymn For The Cigarettes” was to become a crowd-pleasing staple of the band’s live sets after its appearance on this album, and it’s really not hard to see why. As a song, it’s cut from similar cloth to The Undertones’ classic anthem “Teenage Kicks;” not that it steals directly from that song, mind you, just that it shares the same sort of excitable pop/punk sensibility and singalong potential. Accordingly, it should’ve been a massive hit but of course, as is so often the case with indie music, it wasn’t.

Opening the album with such a high caliber song brings its own problems though, as much of what follows is overshadowed by its towering brilliance. There’s some strong material on this album, but after the kickass pop perfection of the opening track, many of the songs do seem rather unremarkable in comparison. In fact, only the similarly titled “The Hymn For The Alcohol,” a stark and bleary-eyed lament, awash with teary, booze-fueled self-pity, comes close to matching the opening track in terms of sheer songwriting quality and emotional impact.

Another inherent problem with The Fidelity Wars is that Hayman’s whiny and slightly off-key vocals can become a touch annoying after a while. It’s not that his voice is outright bad, just that its limited range and tone can become a bit one-dimensional over the course of the record. Still, on the album’s best material, his limited vocal ability actually becomes a strange kind of asset, lending the songs the sort of nerdy bedsitter angst and awkward indie demeanor that only serves to heighten and enhance their melancholy nature.

Ultimately, The Fidelity Wars is one hell of a break up record for fans of honest, cleverly-written British indie rock. While it’s certainly patchy in places, this album has enough high points to be worthy of investigation by fans of the genre, with the two previously mentioned “Hymns” in particular being worth the price of admittance. This is an album that’s tailor made for awkward, lovelorn boys and broken-hearted indie geeks everywhere.

Rating: C+

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© 2007 Paul King and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Too Pure, and is used for informational purposes only.