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Hefner's winking self-confidence and catchy melodies may remind you of fellow Brit poppers, Blur or Supergrass. Their songs' general irreverence masks an underlying melancholy and nostalgia, like Pavement if they were willing to let you in on the joke. The band got started in the early '90s at a Kent, England art school, but didn't really get pumping until the latter part of the decade, debuting their anachronistic folk-edged hard rock sound with a couple of well-received singles before putting out their debut long-player, Breaking God's Heart, in 1998. A flurry releases followed over the next few years, Hefner's sound evolving with each, from the confessional break-up pop of The Fidelity Wars (1999) to the caustic social criticism of We Love the City (2001) to the offbeat lo-fi synth-pop of Dead Media (2001).

"Hymn for the Cigarettes," from The Fidelity Wars, is a straight-ahead rockin' pop song with a healthy dose of catchy riffs and angsty whining. When singer Darren Hayman asks, "How can she love me if she doesn't even love the cinema that I love," it's the perfect rallying cry for the emotionally dispossessed. He follows this lament with a laundry list of cigarettes and their associated memories: ex-girlfriends, far-off friends, and old struggles are all evoked by glowing ash and varying brand names. Other songs on the album feature more complex instrumentation, with pedal steel, brass, theremin and Wurlitzer. But the spirit remains the same no matter how grand the sound becomes. Hayman may sing about regret and sorrow, but he's having a grand old time doing it.

"Christian Girls" is another slice of rollicking, high-spirited pop-rock from the album Boxing Hefner -- a collection of songs recorded between 1996 and 2000 that did not appear on the band's first two albums. Meanwhile, the Dead Media track "When the Angels Play Their Drum Machines," with its squirting robot synths, warped bass line, and sincere vocals, feels like early New Order time-warped two decades into the future, indicating the adventurous new tack Hefner has taken in the 21st century.

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