Fidelity Wars #1: The French – “Theme From Hill Street Blues” (Peel Session 18.08.04)

Welcome to the first “Fidelity Wars”, the blog’s (in theory) weekly music column showcase feature thingy. I guess I’ll just call it a column. It takes its name from the British urban folk-rock band Hefner‘s second album, which is considered by many to be their finest work. In my opinion, it’s a tie between their second and their fourth (and currently last) album, but this name seemed more appropriate – or at least less inappropriate. As with the blog name, I currently am considering whether or not I should change it to something else, like “Spawn More Overlords” or “A Degrading Thirst After Outrageous Stimulation”, but I might just stick with this one.

As this column has taken its name from a Hefner album, it seems appropriate to start off with some music that has a connection with the band. After Hefner went on hiatus, the band’s singer-songwriter Darren Hayman and the band’s bassist John Morrison joined forces to create the electronica due The French. The band’s career was unfortunately brief, but they at least managed to release one album (Local Information), one EP (Dagenham), and one double single (Porn Shoes / Gabriel In The Airport), all of which were released in 2003 on the label Too Pure. They also managed to contribute with a song to the compilation album Songs To Break God’s Heart (which took its name from Hefner‘s very first album, Breaking God’s Heart), and do at least one radio session. It’s from this session I’ve chosen to take this week’s featured piece.

The French – “Theme From Hill Street Blues” (Peel Session 18. Aug. 04)

The theme of this session was something akin to “music from television series”, and it featured three other tracks. (If there are any requests, I may upload the rest sometime.) I’m unsure if there were any other requirements, such as whether the TV series needed to have been cancelled or created within a certain time period. I would have really loved to heard them tackle any of the music from Twin Peaks

I’m not very familiar with the Hill Street Blues TV series nor its theme, but I rather like this. A catchy melody, and a lot of fun electronic blip-blop sounds. The recording quality isn’t the best, having been recorded from the radio, and there’s some odd skipping between 0:37 and 0:47. But perhaps this skipping is an actual part of the piece? That’s one of the fun things with electronica: you can never be quite sure if the recording is distorted or has been damaged or if it’s just an intentional effect. I’m guessing it’s not intentional though, as it doesn’t repeat itself anywhere else in the song. But maybe it is? Electronica will keep you guessing.

For those who are unfamiliar with The French, most of their music does indeed feature vocals. But I remember reading Darren Hayman at the time talking about how he had a great desire to try making music for TV. This session might then be a direct result of this desire, and the duo did make and release (at least) two fully original non-vocal pieces. It’s a shame his dream wasn’t fulfilled.

As with Hefner, The French is on indefinite hiatus. Darren has commented that they pretty much had enough material for a second album, and he’s lately been re-releasing the classic Hefner albums with piles of extra tracks (EPs, B-sides, demos) and I think I recall reading that The French‘s album Local Information would eventually get a re-release. So chances are we’ll get to hear some new music by this duo sooner or later. Hearing some of their second album material would be great, and a proper (high fidelity!) release of this session would have been equally great – if not greater. It’s a very good session.

And this brings to a close the first “Fidelity Wars”. Come back again next weekend for more, and please feel free to comment. Did you like this week’s featured piece? Did you dislike it? Any requests for future installments? Is “Fidelity Wars” a good name for this column? Or does “Spawn More Overlords” simply scream indie music cred slash class?

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