Dead Media

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As good and as exciting a band as Hefner is, We Love the City, the album that immediately preceded Dead Media, saw them perfecting their previous style of music to the point where there were no higher peaks left to climb in their chosen musical genre. Verbally assaulting Margaret Thatcher and critiquing city life in a grand, Baroque manner, Darren Hayman and company were straying a bit wide of the sociological, sexual studies that marked their previous work, as they grasped for new subject matter and somewhat roundabout metaphors. Dead Media thankfully brings the focus back to personal matters, and it sees a breath of fresh air introduced in the form of analog synthesizers and audio experimentation. Dead Media is a clear new page for Hefner. Upon first listen, the title track and album opener might make one wonder just when the band started sounding like Wendy Carlos. Blaring synths, weird sound effects and samples, crunchy organs, and warped bass thumps abound throughout most of the album's 15 songs. There's not a clunker to be found, despite a few meandering instrumentals. Standout songs include the tale of messed-up bedsheets, "When the Angels Play Their Drum Machines," where the bandmembers come across like the kid siblings of Pulp, the grandiose ode to following one's dreams that is "Alan Bean," the '50s-inspired chugging guitar and tambourine fest of "The King of Summer," and "Waking up to You," which somehow finds Hefner sounding like a techno version of Built to Spill. Still, the absolute highlight has to be the stark "China Crisis," where Amelia Fletcher touchingly answers Hayman's verbal volleys by asking if he "ever f***ing listened when (his) head was caving in" and tells him that he's "far too dumb and stupid to look (her) in the eye." "Home" closes the album with what might be the future sound of Hefner; it's a folk hoedown chillout that shimmers beautifully. Dead Media is a vital album in the scheme of all things Hefner, as they prove that they're too smart and talented to sit back and rest on their considerable laurels.

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