This Darren Hayman article was written by Richard Norton, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Zoe Anderson
Recent work put out by Darren Hayman has included an album of reworked socialist/workers’ rights songs and an album about The English Civil War and witch hunts in England. While most people would need two albums to cover the war and the witch hunts, Hayman can do it in one. Hayman’s new album ‘Florence’ (named after the city it was recorded in, Hayman stayed in a friend’s house to record the album) does not have a such a clear theme or political purpose as these other works and is Hayman’s first solo album in a number of years. The closest it comes to a theme is that many of the songs seem to be based on his Florentine existence. ‘Florence’ is a set of quite simple songs with beautiful and sometimes heart-breaking lyrics. There is a feeling of gentleness that infuses each song and without saying a great deal Hayman brings the listener into his gentle world.
The first and last track raise the spectre of religion, ‘Nuns Run The Apothecary’ and ‘English Church’ and a person might think that religion is an important aspect of this album, but it actually isn’t. ‘Nuns Run The Apothecary’ is quite simply a set of instructions and information to a visitor staying in someone’s home set to music and the title refers to a heads-up about the nuns pharmacy based activity, something which might catch a visitor by surprise. As an opening track and as instructions to a guest it is very welcoming and the listener can’t help assume these were the verbatim instructions Hayman received. The final track, ‘English Church’ starts and ends with the sound of church bells and Hayman only making low sighs and the barest hint of a tune.
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Relationships have clearly been on Hayman’s mind and in ‘Break Up With Him’ is the song for everyone who has seen the object of their affections with someone else and this competitor doesn’t appreciate or understand the beautiful person he gets to be with. Along with ‘Didn’t I Say Don’t Fall In Love With Him’ and ‘When You’re Lonely Don’t Be’ Hayman is giving advice that is not always easy to follow. ‘When You’re Lonely Don’t Be’ is one of the stand out tracks that grabs the listener immediately with “Fuck Getting Old Today” and later with an equally dismissive attitude to being young. Hayman seems to have found the perfect age and a perfect partner to share this time with. Whereas ‘Post Office Girl’ is Hayman’s tribute to a one of those people that you encounter often and share a slight connection with which lifts your mood. Presumably the post office in question is in Florence as Hayman describing himself as “the one who always waits in line” will make him stand out from all the other customers.
‘On The Outside’ and ‘Safe Fall’ are about protection; the first Hayman talks about not letting the bad stuff in the world get inside you. ‘Safe Fall’ is a genuinely heart-breaking song where Hayman describes in detail a short glimpse of another person; a woman who needs help and how he hopes there is someone in her life to help her. Here, Hayman makes the listener care for this unknown woman.
The album is very much what a fan of Darren Hayman would expect, and fits in well with the rest of his work in that is it intelligent, emotional and mixes melancholia with optimism. As it is more introspective and less esoteric than his recent output, it serves as a good introduction to Hayman’s work.
‘Florence’ is out on 6th November 2015 via Fika Records.