are a Welsh indie band from Llanelli. They formed in January 1985 and have recorded eleven albums, two EPs, one single, and four BBC sessions in their 32-year career. They have been signed to Berkeley-based label Radio Khartoum since the 1990s, following a two-year tenure at London’s Cherry Red Records from 1987–1989. They toured the US and Scandinavia in 2007.
Born of the post-punk, indie boom of the early-80s, but with their roots in the 1960s, their sound is an amalgam of indie guitar pop with Burt Bacharach, Jake Thackray, and Jonathan Richman, a style fast becoming known in Carmarthenshire as ‘Thackarich’.
The current line-up is: Matt Jones (guitar, vocals), Mike Thomas (bass), Les Mun (drums), Sue Reece (keyboards, flute), and Cris Haines (brass).
For fans of: él Records, The Lucksmiths, The Monochrome Set, The Smiths, The Specials, Momus, John Barry, and Jake Thackray.
Their 11th studio album, In the Mean Time, a wry look at a post-Brexit, post-Trump world and the plight of the former working classes in the late-capitalist era, will be released on April 6th, 2018. If you're outside the US, check to see if you can get a better deal with UK-based shipping via thehepburns.bandcamp.com.
THE HEPBURNS: In the Mean Time
That’s not a typo in the title, and the cats on the cover are neither hep nor kind.
“What it all comes down to is anger. The new Hepburns album is also given to joy, humour, and deep reverence for life’s in-between moments—but its heart is full of rage. Against the prejudice which fostered Brexit and Trump, yes; against the plutocrats pulling the strings, yes; but above all against the fact that, mean as these times are, one day we will have to leave it all behind.” —Matt Jones
Think of a late-’80s British guitar-pop band interpreting late-’60s to early-’70s easy listening, TV and film themes (Alan Hawkshaw, Bert Kaempfert, Ronnie Hazlehurst, Roy Budd), with lots of brass, accented with organ, vibes, and flute. Tying these 16 new songs together and infusing the lot with an awareness of mortality is Matt’s use of a 1960s Italian-made Contessa semi-acoustic guitar that belonged to the group’s late drummer, Pat Grover (to whom this album is dedicated). Speaking of the drums, Les Mun, who last appeared on 1988’s The Magic of the Hepburns on Cherry Red, is back on the job.
Includes 20-page illustrated booklet of lyrics and song notes.
THE HEPBURNS: There’s 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.
By way of apology to those who prefer compact discs, we have a few of the CDR promotional edition available. While not quite up to RK’s usual CD packaging standards, it does include an illustrated 16-page booklet with lyrics, song notes, etc.
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.