London Camden Dingwalls

Hefner keep struggling on, spitting out thrilling little three-minute epiphanies like [B]'Lee Remick'[/B]...

Charles Atlas would almost have been proud. Here’s DARREN HAYMAN, weasel-faced singer with London new-new-romantics [a]Hefner[/a], and it seems he’s had the sand kicked in his face on a regular basis almost since birth. However, while Atlas pumped himself into a muscle-bound man-mountain by means of dynamic tension, Hayman is getting his own back on the emotional bullies through the gift of song. The message is quite clear: do not cross this man lest you wish that your emotional laundry be strung up in front of a crowd of baying social inadequates.

In the same way that PULP once took mighty strength from their outsider status, Hefner are adept at turning their basic minuses into unqualified pluses. A vicious cynic might suggest that Hayman sings like Larry The Lamb and that musically Hefner are cloggers at best. However, it is these little, erm, idiosyncrasies that remind you just what a special band they are.

The simple parallels would be with ’70s noo-wave popsters like the early MODERN LOVERS and TALKING HEADS; all trebly guitars and tremulous singing. Their music is artless and guileless and as far away from any neat text-book definition of rock’n’roll as you can get. Every song has three chords at best, no guitar solos and, during the tetchier moments in the set, like opener ‘Hymn For Alcohol’, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Hefner were playing at gunpoint. There’s a constant sense of danger, as if the delicate machinery of every song could seize up at any moment.

It never does though. Hefner keep struggling on, spitting out thrilling little three-minute epiphanies like ‘Lee Remick’, ‘Pull Yourself Together’ and new song ‘Weight Of The Stars’. Hayman saves his best winning smile for the end and it’s as if surviving the show is another euphoric vindication.

As Charles Atlas would eventually find out, revenge is sweet. So are Hefner.