Hefner – Boxing Hefner

Hefner
Boxing Hefner

Hefner have a very odd sense of indie pop stylings. This British band seems poised for popularity, but if anything is holding them back, it’s their song topics. The band is seemingly obsessed with writing “Hymns for” and singing about things that maybe would get overlooked in typical pop songs. But that’s ok with Hefner. They’re all about bringing pop sensibilities together with wit and a sense of irony.
The band is clearly playing a style of indie Brit-pop. Singer Darren Hayman’s voice seems to be consistently on the verge of breaking altogether, and the songs bounce along with something that is equal parts Belle & Sebastian and Pavement. Together with bands like the aforementioned and The Flaming Lips, Hefner combines brilliant pop structures with some serious songwriting ability. Serious in ability, not necessarily in content. This album follows the band’s second full-length and comprises 12 rare and unreleased Hefner tracks to cater to the band’s devoted following.
“Christian Girls” kicks things off with a very bouncy, poppy rhythm. Stuart from Belle & Sebastian plays on this version of the track that originally appeared on the band’s first 10-inch. “Lee Remick” is a slower, more bluesy, drawly track. “Pull Yourself Together” is one of the best rocking tracks on this mix, with a kind of soulful vocal styling behind a more rocking rhythm, complete with moans and groans and hand-claps. “Blind Girl with Halo” is my favorite track, slower and more meaningful, with soft guitar, harmonica, and bells. Hayman doesn’t sound over the top here as he sings, “and how was I supposed to know that she’s the one betrothed to a Catholic boy with stronger faith than I?” “Hello Kitten” has one of the most poppy and pure beats throughout, and the backing vocals and handclaps fit in perfectly. There’s a different version of “The Hymn for the Coffee” that is a bit slower and stripped down from the original on their last album, The Fidelity Wars, and then “The Hymn for the Things We Didn’t Do,” which is another highlight, slow and painfully honest. “Mary Lee” has a wall of sonic guitars and distorted vocals, a nice change-up. “The Science Fiction” and “Twisting Mary’s Arm” are a bit more restrained, more subtle indie pop numbers, drawing a bit more heavily on the B&S-style or even country-influenced pop.
To be honest, as much as I enjoy the style of poppy rock and clever hooks, Hayman’s voice does grate on my nerves. Hefner mix the vocals far forward, making them the focal point of the songs most times. So after an album of these songs, and the boundless enthusiasm the band seems to have, I do find myself somewhat wearied. But Hefner’s devoted following will be thrilled to have these songs, many of which were available on singles and EPs, all together on one Pepto-pink CD.