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Jack Hayter | Practical Wireless (Absolutely Kosher)
It would be almost too easy to turn a blind eye to this record. A solo outing for Hefner guitarist Jack Hayter on which he simply "writes songs and tells stories", all aided and abetted by the team-leader from his day-job, Darren Hayman. So while this premise may not excite all, it's exactly this simplicity and honesty that makes 'Practical Wireless', if not quite a completely compulsive experience, then certainly a mildly engaging one. A close relation both musically and vocally to Billy Bragg, Hayter describes seemingly simple lives where skeletons peep around the corners of locked wardrobes of those with "hearts full of Elvis and heads full of hate". Recorded using only rudimentary instrumentation, Hayter's stark, lived-in voice is pushed to the front of the mix, emphasising his skill with bittersweet lyrical one-liners and analogies. Anyone experiencing the "she's got eyes like piss holes in the snow, could melt through you" line of opener Blind Man's Fog or his hushed approach to The Only Ones' Another Girl, Another Planet can't fail to be affected. Resolutely English in tone, with references to "egg and chips" along the way, the mood here feels confessional without anything truly personal ever being revealed. Equal parts nostalgic, ironic and melodramatic while - much like Hefner - lacking real consistency, these are folk-tinged songs splashed with whisky-soaked stains. A lo-fi sixth-form poet, Jack Hayter comes over here like an idiosyncratic indie-pop Woody Allen. So, while Hayter's restrained musings on life would be almost too easy to ignore, it's sometimes the quiet ones that you really need to watch...

August 2002