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This record is inspired by finding a leaflet written by William Morris, mainly famous for his interior designs, although he did a plethora of things, and whose house you can visit in north London for a good day out. It's entitled Chants for Socialists. Here, Darren Hayman puts them to music with the help of some of the Walthamstow locals to singalong. Intended as a comfort to ageing lefties, Chants for Socialists is a warm, swaying collection of folk type songs which create a sense of community within its melodies.


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Chants for Socialists by Darren Hayman
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8/10 Hayley Staff review, 19 February 2015

Chants For Socialists is a contemporary take on some political songs from a pamphlet by the 19th century polymath and socialist activist William Morris, performed and recorded by Hefner’s Darren Hayman.

The songs here are typically melodic, folk-tinged indie rock, but not in a tepid, middle-of-the-road Mumford and Sons way. It’s basically what you’d expect from Darren Hayman singing songs of socialist discourse. And unlike a lot of songwriters, Hayman’s quite often been averse to writing songs about himself: the latter part of his 20-year career has been dedicated to themed projects, including a collection of EPs based around British holidays, an instrumental full-length depicting London’s outdoor public swimming pools, a homage to Essex and a concept album about sixteenth-century with trials and the English Civil War. In short, Darren Hayman is no stranger to depicting other people’s stories, and it’s done in a way that is always honest and engaging.

In keeping with the theme of the principles of communality and accessible art that Morris stood for, the recordings took place at the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow and Kelmscott House in Hammersmith, with Hayman inviting strangers from the surrounding areas to contribute group vocals to the LP. The album covers were printed by hand with the help of volunteers, using Morris’ own artwork. This is pretty much the only thing the record does to represent Morris’ bold artistic vision, however. He very much plays it safe, but in a way that is warm and relatable.

Hayman had an opportunity to do something a little less predictable here, but I think he’s done the right thing in letting the words of the original songs speak for themselves. 


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