Darren Hayman and The Long Parliament
The Lexington, Islington
29th August 2012

Late of one of John Peel‘s many, many favourite bands Hefner, Darren Hayman is now playing (and recording) with The Long Parliament. A couple of weeks ago they played a set in London showcasing, amongst other things, tracks from their soon to be released album The Violence. Louder Than War’s Willow Colios was lucky enough to have been in the audience & this is his review of the night.

Reeling from being pummeled half to death by stand-up comedy at Edinburgh Fringe, I am reminded tonight of the regular hilarity that occurs at a Darren Hayman gig.

“The first song is for any teachers in the audience. I understand for some of you it’s been a tough summer” … “I’m deadly serious” He continues after rounds of laughter from the crowd before beginning the set with “Art and Design”.

Now there was an era when old stand-up comedians attempted to sing a bit to pad out their set. Darren doesn’t need to do the reverse with his hefty back catalogue to pick from, but the anecdotes and knowing exchanges with the crowd make every show something of a joy. And it’s quickly apparent that The Long Parliament are the best ensemble Darren has ever been backed by. The second song is a much loved Hefner track, \’The Hymn for the Postal Service’ (see below) and it’s never sounded so good as with Dan Mayfield’s violin and Emma Winston’s keys on it tonight.

A versatile unit, The Long Parliament can really shift from delicate to rocking in an instant. And we even get some delectable five part harmonies. This is the group with which Darren has recorded a new double album, The Violence, about the 17th Century Essex Witch Trials – on the way in November. “It’s about how all of us at our worst cast aside outsiders” says Darren. “I’m trying not to say that bit that Yoda says in Phantom Menace “Fear leads to hate and hate leads to the dark side”, but it seems apt.”

There follows a song about Elizabeth Clarke , the first of woman to be hung as a witch in the Essex. The soft, folky verses are reminiscent of Gorkys Zygotic Mynci at their most tender and the choruses drift and swirl with a sweet summary melancholy. As with all of Darren Hayman’s songwriting, there is a warm heart at the centre of the song both in the theme and melody.

The sellout crowd at The Lexington enjoy the banter between Darren and the band and even get involved themselves. Several songs get the first few rows dancing and there are sing-a-longs for older material including a return to the theme of witches with Hefner classic The Sad Witch, later in the set. We even get some instrumental tracks from new album \’Lido’ a record of songs about British open air swimming pools. “Can instrumentals be about something?” Darren asks us. He thinks they can and all you need to do is close your eyes and listen to this record to be taken to lazy afternoons in old England, looking out over shimmering water in summers long forgotten.

Plowing his own unique furrow in British music, Darren is one of the most prolific modern songwriters, perhaps one of our greatest. Like a less cryptic Robert Pollard or an Essex Ray Davies, he’s a 20th Century Man but his best work didn’t end there. If producing works of art is all we are good for, Darren Hayman continues to do very well indeed.

The Lido Exhibition featuring artwork to accompany the Lido LP is at Rough Trade East until Sun 16th September.

Darren Hayman plays The Kentish Town Bull and Gate on Sat 22nd September The Violence is released on November 5th.

More info about the two events above & about Darren Hayman himself (and, indeed, Hefner) can be found at his website. Darren’s also on Twitter as @darrenhayman and is on Facebook also.

All words by Willow Colios. You can read more from Willow on LTW here or follow him on Twitter.

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