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Practical Wireless

Jack Hayter
Practical Wireless
(Absolutely Kosher)

As a member of the British pop group Hefner, Jack Hayter is one of those musicians who makes a lot of noise, but never gets to use his voice. He plays pedal steel, guitar, and random other things that need played, but at the prompting of band member Darren Hayman, he got behind the mic and recorded a batch of bedroom folk/pop tracks of his own. With help of bandmembers and Hayman on the mixing board, the debut of Practical Wireless is one of those nice little gems with soft corners that will make you chuckle and sing along with it at different moments.

Recorded in what was literally a ramshackle studio (you can hear the soft hum of appliances running in the background of different tracks), the release doesn't sound shoddy on quality, rather the informal surroundings give it that aforementioned 'soft edge' of bedroom recording. With the advent of cheaper and smaller recording equipment, it's allowed musicians to sit back on their favorite couch while playing a guitar solo or singing and that loose feel transfers through to the recording in a good way.

Judging from the scraggly line drawing on the cover of the release (in which a young man surfing the internet reaches his hand down the front of his sweatpants), one might gather that Hayter has at least a decent sense of humour, and that would be correct. The album opener of "Blind Man's Fog" moves along with plucked guitar and warm vocals while an odd sample (which sounds like a lo-fi radio recording of someone saying "Merry Christmas") plays at random intervals. Eventually, the track builds with accordian and some subtle percussion, and although the explanation above sounds like sort of a trainwreck, it works quite well as music to accompany Hayter singing about a girl with "eyes like pissholes in the snow that could melt right through you."

"Misfortune's Big Statue" takes a bit more of a jaunty feel, with Hayter proclaiming "Good news! Bad luck is dead!" with excitement that barely registers while "Au lion d'Or" finds him singing in French to some of the catchiest instrumentation on the entire release. After about the halfway point, the album slows down quite a bit, which comes as somewhat of a letdown after the quirky beginning. There are still some excellent tracks, though, and the county-tinged remake of Only One's "Another Girl Another Planet" fits perfectly with Hayter's well worn baritone vocals while "A Boxer's Dead Wife" mixes a pretty acoustic guitar melody with a slogging drum machine rhythm and some vintage keyboard drones.

With his campfire-story telling voice, Hayter sounds like he's been holding back this batch of tracks for awhile and just wanting to get them out. On "Walking," he sounds so excited that the vocals barely tumble out in time, and the track sounds like a drunken pub sing along before everyone else joins in for the second singing. As mentioned above, the second half of the release drags a bit without the inclusion of any tracks that click quite as well as the first ones on the release do. The more reflective tracks aren't all a bad thing, but a nice pick-up in the middle of the last 30 minutes would have been welcome.

Rating: 6.75