Highlights: Impossible Times, Parliament Joan, Rebecca West, The Laughing Tree
I just want to emphasize that last year Darren Hayman released what could only be called the ultimate January album. January Songs consisted of 31 tracks (guess why), and sounded as lovely as you can get without actually doing anything remarkable. At 20 perfectly reasonable, mildly memorable songs with distinctive folk-ish vibes, The Violence offers more of the same. Apparently Darren Hayman has many songs in him. That’s good. The question, though, remains the same: just how many of those songs are any good?..
And you could of course say: but hey, they are all good! Which would be true. And it’s then that you should cut the crap and ask the question: out of those 20 perfectly reasonable, mildly memorable songs, is there a single truly great one? Well, I’m afraid that’s a resounding, if slightly confused, ‘no’.
Which is not necessarily such a bad thing. Because, and you must be getting the perverted logic of it, the songs are so bloody good. The Violence is a concept album about witch-hunting and the truly heinous persecution of women, and while that may not be the sort of thing you could base 20 pop songs on, Darren Hayman gave it a shot. After all, the Hefner years are long gone and ‘pop song’ is a very vague definition of Hayman’s current activities (prior to this, in summer, he released Lido, a completely instrumental album about British open air swimming pools – yes, I know). The Violence is a very safe, very somber folk-pop album whose best songs (see highlights above) offer some truly inspired, truly haunting melodies that take refined subtlety over ‘vulgar’ catchiness. However, screw my cynicism: I enjoyed the album.
And, like I’ve already mentioned, not a single bad song here. Some instrumentals are distinctly throwawayish, granted, but that’s a concept album about witch-hunting, so you might as well get your imagination working. Overall The Violence a worthy, half-exciting, atmospheric ride (in a hearse). Also, one of the best covers of the year. That’s for sure.