Originally released in 2001, Hefner‘s Dead Media was the band’s fourth (or fifth, if you count Boxing Hefner) and final album. Rather than giving their fans another album of accessible piano- and guitar-driven pop/rock songs a la We Love The City, they decided to experiment with retro electronica. Few people seemed to “get” the album, losing them fans and receiving some poor reviews, and it was a contributing factor to the band breaking up (or going on an indefinite hiatus, as the band’s frontman might prefer to phrase it).
Dead Media is personally one of my all-time favourite albums, up there with The Fidelity Wars, and I have fond memories of listening through it at night on my older brother’s Discman. I was around 16 – 17 years old at the time. While this album wasn’t the first Hefner album I bought and listened to, it was the one that got me interested in the band in a roundabout way; I saw the cover artwork for Dead Media in an e-mail newsletter from an online music retailer, which displays what appears to be a crying super hero. This made me curious, being a comic book and super hero fan, so I looked them up online and listened to a few clips off The Fidelity Wars. While I wasn’t entirely won over I decided to take a gamble and ordered a copy. I ended up buying Dead Media sometime later at Platekompaniet when I stumbled over it on sale for 100 NOK.
Re-listening to it, it’s still a great album. It didn’t give me the sense of re-discovery that the We Love The City re-release gave me, but this is probably because I casually listen to tracks off Dead Media at some frequency. There are some great songs on this album, and the sound is varied enough to never get boring. While the album does overall have a retro electronica sound to it, there are plenty of acoustic elements and tracks to be found here too. The definite stand-out track is “When The Angels Play Their Drum Machines”, which might be the closest the band comes to pure synth-pop joy, but there isn’t a single bad song among the bunch.
My feelings about the double-disc re-releases have been mixed, as I’ve stated previously. While they have had some neat bonuses, and certainly having all the EPs and B-sides collected in one place is convenient, they have felt bogged down with too many needless demo, rehearsal, and 4-track recordings, which often sound too similar to the finished recordings to really be of interest. Perhaps they could have done a limited-edition mp3 album like ANT did with his When The Morning Arrives release, collecting the bulk of the demos (and such) on that. They’re mostly only of interest to hardcore fans, who probably wouldn’t have minded investing a bit extra to get these recordings, and it would have helped un-bog the albums and help make them less daunting for new and casual fans of the band. Plus, there wouldn’t be the 80-minute audio limit to worry about.
But unlike any of the previous re-releases, this one has zero demo, rehearsal, or 4-track recordings. I may sound like a hypocrite or flip-flopper when I say this is a shame, but this is the album I actually would have really liked hearing demo recordings from. An acoustic version of “When The Angels Play Their Drum Machines” would’ve been interesting as all heck, if such a thing exists, or of some of the other more heavily electronic songs. This is also the shortest of the re-releases so far; while the three previous ones all, oddly enough, clock in at 2 hours and 36 minutes (plus a varying amount of seconds), this one clocks in at a “mere” 2 hours and 10 minutes. So 26 minutes less content than any of the others.
The extras start off with four B-sides from the two Alan Bean singles, followed by the excellent EP The Hefner Brain – the band’s last proper release before their hiatus. These are all pretty great. Next up is an alternate version of “Waking Up To You”, marked as Bass Guitar Version, followed by an unreleased instrumental track called “Wrong Brain”. Unfortunately both are fairly forgettable; the former sounds almost exactly like the original except that a synth has been replaced by a bass, and the instrumental just seems like a practice track with no real melody to it.
Next up are four tracks from a Dutch radio session: “Alan Bean”, “Junk”, “Gabriel In The Airport” and “The Pines”. The first was originally released on the limited edition live CD Kick, Snare, Hats, Ride, and the later two songs would eventually be recorded for Darren Hayman and John Morrisson’s The French project. (Demos of these can also be found on Catfight!) These are all neat, but I have heard talk about releasing a Hefner radio session compilation, for which they perhaps could have been more appropriate.
The extras are finished off with five remixes: two remixes of “Alan Bean” from a previously released 7-inch, two remixes of “Trouble Kid” from another previously released 7-inch (which was also released as a promotional CD for some reason), and a previously unreleased remix of “Trouble Kid”. The three “Trouble Kid” remixes are decent, with the Battersea Remix done by Darren Hayman himself being my definite favourite. The two “Alan Bean” remixes are far too ambient for my personal tastes, paying too little heed to the original melody.
This marks the last of the Hefner deluxe re-release albums, unless they’ve got something else in store. But there’s still the re-release of Local Information to look forward to, the sole album of the short-lived post-Hefner electronica duo The French. In terms of extras to expect, that will probably include the two B-sides from the Porn Shoes / Gabriel In The Airport split single, and the Dagenham EP. There’s also the track “Watery For” that was released on the Songs To Break God’s Heart compilation, and if we’re lucky they might have cleared any copyright issues so they could include the four-track TV themes radio session they did – unless they’d be saving that for the possible radio sessions release mentioned above.
As for the still un-re-released Hefner tracks I listed in my piece about the We Love The City re-release, according to a commentor the songs in question had all been recorded for BBC and there were some legal and monetary issues. So for now, the only way to get a hold of those tracks is to track down the original out of production releases, which is a shame.
To finish off, I’ve included three tracks below. First is the fun and bouncy Darren Hayman remix of the song “Trouble Kid”, which you’ll find included on this release. Then there’s a cover song of Jonathan Richman’s “To Hide A Little Thought”, which is possibly my favourite cover song by Hefner. It was included as a B-side to the I Took Her Love For Granted single, and later included on Boxing Hefner, and it’s one of the tracks that probably won’t see a re-release anytime soon. And finally there’s a fun acoustic cover I found on YouTube of “Peppermint Taste” off Dead Media, done by someone going under the artist name The Man Who Loves You (who is remarkably reminiscent of David Tattersall from The Wave Pictures). You can view the original video here. Enjoy!