Breaking God's Heart

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Remember the Violent Femmes? Hefner does. Fifteen years after the Femmes left a permanent impression on the record collections of America's college students, Hefner debuts with a decidedly British take on the Wisconsin trio's folksy punk, leaving the twentysomething angst, sexual misadventures, and Catholic handwringing intact. But Breaking God's Heart is no "Blister in the Sun Redux," as singer/guitarist Darren Hayman injects more than enough hooks, self-deprecating humor and knee-jerk socialism to transcend his band's influences. The jangly sing-along singles "Love Will Destroy Us in the End" and "The Sweetness Lies Within" are among the highlights, as is the countrified "A Hymn for the Postal Service" (one in a long line of Hefner hymns) and "God Is on My Side," a slow dance number that is either aided or hindered by Hayman's shambolic falsetto -- depending on how important vocal virtuosity is to you. A few of the ballads misfire, if only because the melodies are scant and Hayman's voice is left undressed for far too long. Still, it's clear that Hefner possesses a fair amount of soul, even if it can only be labeled The Hefner Soul, as an earlier 10" called it. An impressive first step from a band brimming with songs.

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