Album Review: Darren Hayman and the Secondary Modern


Darren Hayman and the Secondary Modern -‘Pram Town.’ (Track and Field)

As I’ve noted before, Darren Hayman is so prolific a songwriter that he makes Mark E. Smith look like the Blue Nile. After a very busy 2008, here comes his long-promised ‘Folk Opera.’ It’s a treat and a half, one of those records that you want to play again and again (I only iPoded my review copy two days ago and according to my iTunes account this is now the fifth time I’ve played it).

Hayman is an Essex man…er, stop stereotyping, and just listen, alright? This is not an album about XR3is or people sneering at them (hello, Morrissey). Rather, it’s a reflection on the post-war new towns, like Pram Town itself, Harlow, from a man, Hayman, who grew up in a nearby town, Brentwood. In his own words, he loves and hates these towns. It deals with two characters who live there.

So is it a concept album? I guess (I just keep thinking of the worst excesses of prog whenever someone uses that phrase, and it’s more than thrity years since punk came to wash it away). Is it a folksy, rootsy album? Again, sort of…not like last year’s bluegrass album, this is a folksy and pastoral album. There’s moments of loveliness that have just a whiff of Virginia Astley’s From Gardens Where We Feel Secure. In terms of its’ reflection on life in England, perhaps it’s reference points might be the Kinks’ Villlage Green Preservation Society, in terms of escape the first three Suede albums, and for on the heart English honesty, The Streets’ Original Pirate Material. Though it sounds like none of those records. Maybe a slight nod to some of the stuff that Richard Thompson and Saint Etienne have produced…damn it, I’m clucthing at straws and similes here.

But it is Hayman firing on all cylinders. Whilst last year’s compilation of his Holiday EPs felt like a compilation of sketches, this is a fully realised beautiful piece of work, and not just the cover which evokes a beauty out of the aesthetic of town planning. This is an album which rates as one of the best I’ve heard this year, and confirms Hayman as a treasure.


Darren Hayman -‘Pram Town

These mp3s are linked to his site. Darren says these are low quality mp3s, but i guess if you like them you’ll go and buy the album, won’t you?

Darren Hayman -‘Losing my glue.’ mp3

Darren Hayman -‘Rachel and Amy.’ mp3

Darren Hayman -‘Big Fish.’ mp3

Darren Hayman’s website/Darren Hayman’s myspace

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