Whoa! Is it Tuesday already? Man, I need to get better at not letting such things take me by surprise. But yes, it’s Tuesday, and that means it’s high time for another installment of my (hopefully) weekly feature “Blast from the Past,” where, amidst the flood of shiny new music, I dig in the dust for something a little less new, but not necessarily less shiny. Last week I fawned over Elton John’s 1973 masterpiece Caribou, now well-aged and relegated to many a bargain bin. Today, we fast forward to 1999 for an album I have yet to find in any record store:
One of my college friends, whom I shall refer to as “Francis,” and who infrequently posts in the society as Gnaeus, has a car. This in itself is not a big deal, but when you go to a school where only around 10 to 20 percent of the student body has a car on campus, a friend with a car is a friend who’s a star (See what I did there?) As a result, “Francis” is the one who drives my friends and me places (whether it be the nearby Taco Bell at 2 AM or a Magnetic Fields concert an hour away.)
Being a fellow music buff, “Francis” would agree that no drive, no matter how short, is complete without some music playing. Consequently, passengers of the giant Buick Rendezvous that he drove were treated to a treasure trove of obscure but wonderful music, and it was on one of these mixtapes that I first heard the sweet sounds of Hefner’s The Fidelity Wars.
The song in question was the brand-name-dropping rocker “The Hymn For The Cigarettes,” where lead singer Darren Hayman worries over how compatible he is with his lady-friend: “How can she love me / if she doesn’t even love the cinema / that I love? / What does she feel / if she doesn’t have the feeling / that I have in my fingers?” Hayman agonizes over charging guitars. Other songs from this album found their way onto “Francis'” mixtapes as well: the wonderfully clichéd chorus of “We Were Meant To Be” became a car-wide sing-along, and the somber, frustrated “I Stole A Bride” was always enough to turn ears away from a conversation.
But what of the band behind the songs? The Fidelity Wars was Hefner’s second album, after Breaking God’s Heart (another stellar record) in 1998. Fidelity Wars was followed by We Love The City in 2000 and Dead Media in 2001, after which the band went on indefinite hiatus. Darren Hayman went on to form The French, who released one album in 2003, Local Information, before going on hiatus themselves. Hefner reunited briefly in 2007 to perform at a “Keeping It Peel” tribute show, in honor of one of their biggest supporters, John Peel.
So without further ado, I urge you: Check out The Fidelity Wars. It is more than worth your while.
The Fidelity Wars:
01. The Hymn For The Cigarettes
02. May God Protect Your Home
03. The Hymn For The Alcohol
04. I Took Her Love For Granted
05. Every Little Gesture
06. Weight Of The Stars
07. I Stole A Bride
08 We Were Meant To Be
09. Fat Kelly’s Teeth
10. Don’t Flake Out On Me
11. I Love Only You