Published Apr 04, 2016There's a temporal tussle within Hayden's impressive debut record, as it plainly oscillates between who he was 20-odd years ago and the artist he would eventually come to be. In the mélange of the mid-'90s, when sensitive men bellowed and whispered in kind, and made quaintly complex records at home with such autonomy, they preferred to duet with themselves, Hayden stuck out.
With his gift for melody and phrasing, Hayden turned the hangdog neighbourhood narrative, "Bad As They Seem" into a hit. It was a post-Beck, loser chic world and Hayden was adept at finding the humour in pain, while making sophisticated folk music sound deceptively simple. Everything has a hint of indifference content-wise, but this is usually belied by the obvious thought that's apparent in its structures and arrangements. There's timeless power here for sure; the slacker ballad "We Don't Mind" made the hairs on my body stand up on end via muscle memory alone.
The hyper-sincerity of the era, most obviously exemplified by Soundgarden and Pearl Jam, sneaks its way into songs like the dark, compelling "Skates," or the grunge groove of "In September," which each feature screaming fits one cannot imagine Hayden engaging in today. He'd do these kinds of things live and it seemed crazed — a seated, shaven-headed dude throttling an acoustic guitar like it had wronged him, while seemingly hell-bent on expelling all of the throbbing veins from his head.
But "Lounging," which, particularly in the secondary version included here, recalls Jim Guthrie's own home-rock vocal orchestrations and, more significantly, sounds like something Hayden would present to us tomorrow. There was also this sense that, even as a sad sack, Hayden was a goofball; "Original Recipes" is just him providing an amusing chicken club sandwich recipe, in manipulated voice, like a stoner.
There was and is a certain joy you can harness when you first discover that you can make records for and by yourself, and the machines — the four-tracks and other portable studios — are very much part of the aesthetic here. It's notable also that, at this point, Hayden already knew his voice pretty well but Everything I Long For is the sound of him fine-tuning it and putting his whole, formidable artistic range on display. (Hardwood)