Dusted Reviews

Hayden - Skyscraper National Park

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Hayden

Album: Skyscraper National Park

Label: Badman

Review date: Apr. 9, 2002

Without having ever heard it, I can tell you right off that the greatest Canadian album of all time is still yet to receive a proper release. Obviously I am speaking of the Neil Young/Rick James album. In fact ("fact" being relative), Canada has been musically stumbling ever since this AWOL-inspired collaboration was allowed to fall by the wayside. With exceptions (and recognition of Quebec as a separate country…’tis the season!) Canada’s great white hopes generally find themselves lost in the middle of the road, which is exactly where they seem to prosper. In a perfect world, Hayden would be ready to receive his Juno for lifetime achievement as Skyscraper National Park was released to Bryan Adams-caliber hype and adoration. Fortunately or unfortunately, this is not to be. In spite of much half-assed hype, mid-90s style, Hayden’s quiet was not the new loud and he was shuffled on down the ladder until whoops! he fell right off. His getting dropped was not a surprise really, but it wasn’t terribly heartwarming either. Back in the day, Hayden's nonunique folk-pop was just saccharine enough to be tempting to the mainstream powers that be, but too poppy to be cool enough for the cool kids. What has changed since then? Not a whole lot. But now Hayden is back where he started, kinda. And in spite of the fact that Skyscraper National Park does not mark any dramatic change in his songwriting or arranging, it manages to please far more than any of his past releases.

One gratifying change comes in Hayden's inflection, which has shifted nicely to a timid whisper from his onetime post-grunge mumble-warble. It occasionally gains strength and volume, but generally remains at a level reminiscent of eponymous-era Elliot Smith. Acoustic guitar, often strummed with corresponding shyness, generally leads the songs along, but lightly distorted electric guitar delivers bite and lines throughout the album. "Dynamite Walls," one of the album's more striking tracks, finds Hayden retreating to his initial hummumble as a simple and constant guitar line allows his melody to build around it. Escalation stems from the build and the song crescends into a fairly rockin' rocker.

Skyscraper National Park has many highlights and surprisingly few duds. Even the odd instrumental track plopped into the album's center manages to provide a nice adhesive between its surrounding songs. While Hayden is clearly not afraid of overstepping his piecewise builds (which often result in lengthy epics), he is also charmingly prone to the <2:00 (or even <1:30) tunes that pleasingly leave the listener eager for extension, rather than paining for conclusion. The seventh song, "All in one move," leaves barely enough room for Hayden to make it through verse-chorus-bridge before it teasingly ends, leading into one of the album's more substantial and powerful songs. The eight track, "Bass song," is lead appropriately by a simple minor bass line and Hayden, in full forlorndom, storytelling of an eerie experience of paranoia. Drums and bass are interrupted only briefly by guitar lines and gentle violin background. His account of the story's climax is told in the final chorus as he sings "I could find shit / So grabbed my bass guitar by the neck / And held it above me / And hid by the top of the stairs and that's where I was found / Five days after I hit the ground." Rhythmic trickery makes for clever listening as Hayden mysteriously concludes his tale.

While Skyscraper National Park is by no means dissident, it is considerably less commercially poppy than any of his previous releases. At times it would be nice if it were a bit more challenging, or at least less straightforward. Still it is an admirable leap for Hayden to have made. Perhaps not only is his sight better in hind, but it is also improved by looking from the ground up.

By Sam Hunt

Other Reviews of Hayden

Elk-Lake Serenade

In Field & Town

Read More

View all articles by Sam Hunt

Find out more about Badman

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.