Indie-pop miniaturists often have trouble distinguishing between small and slight--between a healthy desire to probe the idiosyncrasies of a limited worldview (or a subdued emotion) and the need to cower within their own smug, aesthetic dominion. The willfully dinky British synth-pop trio Hefner skirts this line so consciously that the line itself becomes the object of scrutiny. When that tinny disco high hat on "When the Angels Play Their Drum Machines" slips between each syllable of Darren Hayman's hotel-trip proposition "Let me let you down again," Hefner pins the wriggling nuances of every wiseguy's interior life up against the clinical specimen board of a pop song.
Whether celebrating astronaut "Alan Bean" (who retired to become an artist) or the joy of "Waking Up to You," Hayman evokes a joyfully alienated, cutely elitist "we"--an international lumpenbohemiat of college students and coffee-shop employees and half-serious musicians surviving off the fruits of their own cleverness. He doesn't work up a critique--that'd be asking a lot--but he does seem conscious of its limitations. When Hayman writes to the first girl he kissed, imagining her (and not resentfully) as a banker's wife, he sounds like Jarvis Cocker would if he were afraid you'd make fun of his dancing--like an exhibitionist hobbled, but not crippled, by insecurity. And from such twisted self- consciousness some wonderfully minor art comes forth.
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