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26 Aug 2007 | smh review

This Delicate Thing We've Made
Bernard Zuel, reviewer | August 18, 2007 |

It's a good thing Darren Hayes is a wealthy man who can fund his own recordings. Darren Hayes, all over the place on This Delicate Thing We've Made.

Artist: Darren Hayes
Genre: Pop
Label: Roadshow

It's a good thing Darren Hayes is a wealthy man who can fund his recordings. There is no way any record company holding the purse strings would have allowed Hayes to make an album such as this.

Not just because it is a double album with 25 tracks, though that would make the accountants blanch and the marketing people gag on their high-energy sports drinks. Not because of its often startling intimacy, though that would have the promotions staff scared to step out of their offices.

No, what would stagger their small minds the most is how this record is, stylistically, all over the shop. There are electro-dance songs, Idol-ready ballads, oddball shapes, funky turns, hard club numbers, mainstream pop, shimmery layered concoctions and quasi-rock moments.

This is the boy from the outer suburbs of Brisbane being every kind of pop star he ever imagined himself being. That list seemingly includes, but is certainly not restricted to, Madonna, Prince, Depeche Mode, Giorgio Moroder (with Donna Summer and Phil Oakey), Kate Bush and even Darren Hayes.

This could and probably should be flighty at best and horribly self-indulgent, a collection of a rich man's fancies. It most certainly is inconsistent, it sometimes flails in pretension and other times teeters between naive and childish. But I can't help but admire Hayes's courage and sense of adventure first of all and respect the quality of a good number of these songs in the end. Here is a pop singer who any corporate type would advise to narrow his focus and reclaim the middle of the road. Instead he is putting out not just trad fare such as Who Would Have Thought (co-written with Robbie Williams's old songwriting partner, Guy Chambers) but Bombs Up In My Face which begins with his voice tweaked into a cartoon shape as a hard-edged piece of club groove, then beeps and bounces its way into a free-flowing prod at right-wing religiosity.

Here, too, is a singer whose audience has been (unfairly) characterised as suburban mums and their daughters, recreating Kate Bush's Army Dreamers with Neverland, ramping up some leather-and-beatbox feels in Future Holds a Lion's Heart and Step into the Light and laying down a powerful piano-and-voice ballad in Words.

And in it all, in what now seems to be typical Hayes manner, he leaves nothing personal unsaid, from the homophobia he defies and the childhood ugliness he escaped to the traces of bitterness just behind the newly found inner peace.

In How to Build a Time Machine he begins in quasi-science magazine manner but eventually transports us back to his childhood and a litany of regrets. In Casey, his teen self sings to his sister that if Brisbane could be escaped, "I'll be waving goodbye pretending not to cry/I want to be someone/If you take me away all the pain will change into a memory of when we were amazing".

You could cut this album in half (keeping most of the second disc) and have something tighter. That would be smart business and smart musically, too. But there's something exciting about someone taking chances, failures and all. And when he pulls it off as often as he does here, you should celebrate it.

26 Aug 2007 | comments:0 | < back
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