A capricious guitar pop act from Wales that appeared briefly with Cherry Red at the tail end of the 80s to the bafflement of the UK press of the day (who weren't ready for a band that claimed Bacharach, Barry and Morricone as influences). The Magic of the Hepburns was not lost overseas, however, where the band left a lasting impression on younger fans from Grimsby Fishmarket in Sweden to the Siesta crew in Spain, as well as on the future boss of Radio Khartoum. But there was a hitch (not to mention a lost album), and no one—including John Peel (who reportedly wondered aloud on air)—knew what had become of the band in the decade that followed. By some miracle, a neighbor of band leader Matt Jones was referred to Radio Khartoum in 1999 and a pact was quickly struck. Jones and co. quickly found their stride, producing a series of albums each better than the last, and much faster than the slow RK machinery can release them.
For fans of: él Records, The Lucksmiths, The Monochrome Set, The Smiths, The Specials, Momus, John Barry, and Jake Thackray.
The Hepburns latest recording, There's no such thing as the Hepburns, was released on January 27th, 2017 on Radio Khartoum. If you're outside the US, you can probably get a better deal with UK-based shipping via thehepburns.bandcamp.com.
THE HEPBURNS: There is no such thing as the Hepburns
Welsh indie stalwarts return with their vibe-laden, trumpet-spiked brand of melancholia. Small-town tales of disintegration, existential limbo, and the dismantling of the welfare state glide on a languid and blissful projection of Bacharachian lightness and easy-listening charm. Or as Matt Jones describes it, this 2016 recording concerns itself with "...personification and dehumanisation, the opposite extremes of the modern human condition as capitalism exerts a stranglehold and wrings the last drop of humanity from us, people merged with animals, people merged with machines, machine-people merged with each other..."
It's sunshine pop of the palest order. Produced by Anthony Rochester.
Vinyl-only, includes download card and lyric sheet with Jones's usual song notes.
THE HEPBURNS: How the Fallen Are Mighty
khz210 / mhz210
Have you ever wondered what your friends say behind you back? Not the edited version, the spin or the pitch, but the backstabbing, the barb and the bitch? The Hepburns (Wales) have returned with an album championing the ordinary, the downtrodden and the broken. That said, How the Fallen Are Mighty also just happens to represent The Hepburns at their cattiest, as they skewer couch surfers, hack writers, sexual taxonomists, civil servants, store greeters and (more often than not) themselves at every turn. With the exception of one track ("Growing Old", a devastating but quite possibly optimistic haiku to the fading mind), How the Fallen Are Mighty is all barb, all bitch, all the time.
Although the starting musical reference point remains classic guitar pop (think Brilliant Corners, Smiths, Lucksmiths), inspirations from outside the genre abound, encompassing the barbershop-meets-Yazoo of "Delores" (ode to a glowering cashier), om-pa-pa for jazz guitar, tuba and tub-thumping narrator ("One More Notch on the Bedpost"), Addams Family-meets-Specials-meets-The Pink Panther-meets-Charlotte Bronte ("The Help"), car-chase instrumentals ("Save Your Stories for the Police, Maurice"), growling 50s musical camp (the indignant Matt Jones reveling in his social status as "Persona Non Grata") and the angular, bass-forward groove (in-kraut or post punk?) of "Man Missing."
“How the Fallen Are Mighty is the work of a poet. A mosaic of witty, fantastical, individualistic songs that sound well alone and collectively form a breathtaking panorama of lyrical imagery and eclectic sound. I don’t know where this work stands in today’s polluted pop waters, but I fancy that back in the more bracing airs of 1981 it would have been celebrated as the major achievement it surely is.”
"I've loved the Hepburns since Goalmouth Incident and can say with complete honesty (and signed in blood) that with every album they just get better. Songs like ‘Man Missing’, ‘Vermouth’, ‘Dolores’, ‘Nobody Loves Me’ and ‘Sad, Free, Excited and Empty’ have all — after a single meagre listen — placed themselves effortlessly onto the short list of all-time indiepop classics. After several listens, I was hospitalized for severe happiness."
“I have no idea what happened. One minute I was at a madcap yet elegant party trading barbs with shimmying sophisticates, and the next I was in a gutter with my lapels askew and this album clutched in my trembling hands. Where did the Hepburns come from? What have they done to me? Why does the rest of life seem so dull in comparison?”
Digipak with 28-page illustrated lyric booklet and extensive (English/Japanese) liner notes.
Mastered by Jon Chaikin.
Further details? See the press release.
THE HEPBURNS: Trojan Hearse
Bendigedig Recordings (Wales)
You want to know what this album is about?
First you have to appreciate the beauty not of Federer’s ‘Backhand’ or of his five-set win over Nadal to take his fifth Wimbledon title—no not the beauty of that—but of his decline, his downward arc, his plimsolled feet as they descend towards the ground.
Ladies and gentleman I give you a toast…
To the latter-day Icarus; to the middle-aged man, his arithmetical cage, struck dumb by the songbird half his age
To hairstyles ruined by the rain and the view from down the drain
The unwelcome guest, the reluctant host; all the ghosts from California to the Baltic Coast!
Trojan Hearse. For drunks, cyclists and drunk cyclists everywhere.
THE HEPBURNS: Something Worth Stealing
Probably the Hepburns’ lightest album, Something Worth Stealing was written as a romantic fling with no skeletons in the closet...well, unusually few skeletons by Hepburns standards, discounting the up-tempo duet with the dead guy who comes back to woo a former lover, the ghostly coal mine choir in the jazzy shadows on the ditty about the strongman’s cape, and, perhaps, the ode to Scooby-Doo’s Velma. This album is more a celebration of joyrides, spring storms, dinosaur incisors, winter fashions, boho wannabes, humdrum and conundrum, the occasional poisoned dart, and the use of the word “penultimate.”
SWS showcases the blossoming of the Hepburns’ association with White & White (brass and flute, respectively) which started halfway through the sessions for the last album. In addition to the Hepburns’ trademark organ and vibraphone riff-laden, jazz- and ska-tinged jangle, topped with words that could have only been penned by Matt “all Welshmen are Liars” Jones, the new album features the song everyone has been waiting to hear since the last album: “The Last Thing I Saw Before I Said Goodbye.”
Digipak with 24 page booklet with lyrics, liner notes by Matt Jones (Japanese translations by Jun Kurihara) and graphic commentaries by Bügelfrei.
THE HEPBURNS: Deciphering Linear A
Never intended as a taster for any album, this single is just a bit of magic that happened when no one was looking. “What If Everyone Got What They Wanted,” The Hepburns’ whimsical ode to letting it slip through your fingers, is pure A-side, a song that begged to be released on its own. A single, a song heard in isolation, the kind of tune that justifies the pause between songs to stop the turntable and flip the record. Matt Jones claims to have recorded the song in all of 10 minutes but the resulting first take is timeless (and could never be duplicated on subsequent trips to the studio). The flipside features two manic slices of jaunty, quirky guitar pop as only the errant Hepburns know how.
Another packaging splurge, this time in the form of a glossy, full color gatefold sleeve featuring a stunning meditation in lines, halftones and moires on “substance and nothingness (by way of Venice)” by designer Bügelfrei. More liner notes by Jones (plus Japanese translations by Jun Kurihara). Oh, and did we forget to mention that the package includes both 7" vinyl and 3" CD? All tracks non-album.
THE HEPBURNS: The Last Thing I Saw Before I Said Goodbye
At the rustic inns of Hepburns country (somewhere near Llanelli, Wales) one brushes elbows with the weary ghosts of celebrity boxing promoters, painters and revolutionaries, with teen swim champion dropouts and with (naturally) the disaffected and debonair Norman de Plume. Vocalist and songwriter Matt Jones paints this remote countryside with his characteristic wit: part comic, part melancholy. A belief that all humor springs from the bad things in life. And springs eternal.
On this outing there were two new faces aboard the Hepburns charabanc: Jen and James White, a flautist and trumpet player, respectively.
Packaging splurge: Tactile and tasteful digipack as always, plus a 28 page booklet with lyrics, song-by-song prose commentary by Matt Jones (Japanese translation by Jun Kurihara), and graphical commentary by Bügelfrei.
Mastered by Jiri Adamik-Novak.
THE HEPBURNS: Champagne Reception
khz200 / mhz200
First release in a decade, and the dawn of the new Hepburns era. The philosophy of The Hepburns is intact and shining: character sketches inimitably drawn (presumably from the pages of Clinker, Matt’s novel in progress), and a knack for precisely arranged guitars and backing vocal flourishes which speak pure caprice. The cinematic sensibility which was lost on the UK press ten years earlier is still there, and quite possibly stronger than ever. A soundtrack for a film set in a village of dilapidated buildings, obsolete soda pop machines, and gardens, haunted with the ghosts of boxers, Disney’s pirates, Nick Drake, and Jackie Onassis.
Mastered by Jiri Adamik-Novak.
THE HEPBURNS: butterfly fish T-shirt
Click on the images for a larger view of the artwork.
Screen printed on “navy”, “red” and “natural” American Apparel “2001” cotton tees. The blue and red versions have silver and white printing; the “natural” is off-white organic cotton and has aqua and red printing.
American Apparel shirts are cut like 1970s tees and run smaller than other (modern) brands. If in doubt, order one size larger than you usually wear. Or click here for size chart.
THE HEPBURNS: The Girl Who Lost Interest in Everything
The text reads:
Hepburns / Anthony Rochester 2007 tour poster
The idea with the design was to have a pre-printed, generic poster small enough to fit in the a photocopier so that local details (guest artists, venue and date info) could be added on top. Of course, it took a bit of work to get the add-on text to line up with the pre-printed text. We had some extras left over at the end of the tour. Bug us if you really want one with Bart Davenport, Baskervilles, etc. on the poster. There were a few of those in mixed in the stack the last time I looked.Ships in tube. For a larger view, click here.