Hefner

Catfight

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"Essential" is not at all too strong a word to use for Hefner's Catfight. This two-disc, 43-track set collects B-sides, comp tracks and rarities from the defunct British indie rock trio Hefner's 1994-2001 career, and is the perfect adjunct to 2006's equally fine best-of collection. Listening to Catfight reveals a side of Hefner that the hits compilation glosses over, but which was vitally important to the band and its audience: Hefner were the sharpest pop satirists this side of Half Man Half Biscuit, with a similar fondness for using fellow pop bands, movie stars, and other totems of U.K. pop culture as signifiers in their sharply-drawn vignettes and character studies. Their other point of comparison to HMHB is the way Hefner incorporated folky acoustic tunes into their mod-like Brit-pop, an important side of the band that their later albums sometimes obscured. Those acoustic tunes, featuring singer/songwriter Darren Hayman alone with a guitar or piano, are a major part of Catfight, but the set also contains quirky genre exercises like the electro-dance track "Fist Footed," the old-school synth pop instrumental "Hymn for the 1950s Folk Revival," and the sparse "OMD," an elegy for a failed romance set to one heavily distorted electric guitar and an echo pedal. An utterly faithful cover of the Mountain Goats' "Orange Ball of Hate" is another unexpected highlight, as is the delightful country-rock shuffle "New French Tits." The entire collection is as varied and enjoyable as any of Hefner's proper albums.

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