Release Date: Feb 2, 2015
Record label: Where It's At Is Where You Are
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Prolific British singer/songwriter Darren Hayman delivers a politicized set of warm, melancholic folk-pop on his 11th solo release, Chants for Socialists. The album's ten tracks feature lyrics adapted from a political pamphlet of the same name by 19th century writer, artist, and social activist William Morris. Hayman chanced upon this document one day while visiting the William Morris Gallery near his home and was taken by the bold, decisive nature of the work, which featured a set of political chants meant to be set to the popular tunes of the day.
Some songwriters spend whole careers writing about nothing but themselves; never leaving the confines of their own head: their own lives, loves and fears. Not so proper-indie institution Darren Hayman. The one-time Hefner frontman has dedicated the last third of his 20-year-career to a series of themed projects: a collection of EPs based around British holidays, an instrumental record about London’s outdoor public swimming pools, a trilogy dedicated to life in Essex including a genuinely stunning concept album about sixteenth-century witch trials and the English Civil War.
An album of full of socialist chants an oddity even in the early ’80s, a decade defined by class warfare and strife. These days there is little in the way of effective politicised music being created, or indeed musical movements and tribal cultures. There are no equivalents to the Teddy Boys, Skins, Mods. There’s nothing like Red Wedge, no Hippies; there’s little in the way of motivated, achievable youth culture.
From those hectic indie guitar beginnings with Hefner 20 years back, Darren Hayman has matured into one of England’s most intriguing songwriters. His singular journey encompasses electronica and an Essex trilogy, while recent stops have taken in the English folk canon and municipal bathing facilities. Here he turns to Victorian activist, textile designer and man of letters William Morris, crafting a set of tunes for a Morris pamphlet, Chants For Socialists.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. With Chants for Socialists, Darren Hayman has created a modern take on some political songs from a pamphlet by the 19th century polymath, Arts and Crafts pioneer and outspoken socialist William Morris. Yet instead of responding to the boldness of Morris' artistic vision, the strength of his political convictions or the stark idiosyncrasies of his utopian vision in any musical respect, Hayman has let the words of the original songs speak for themselves and grounded them in tepid compositions of folk-inflected indie rock.