Felix Hatfield – False God

Album Review | Fangbite Records | Review by Marc Higgins

Unique is an overused epithet, stripped of some of its otherworldly sparkle by the frequency with which it is bandered about.  Felix Hatfield’s Boundaries released in 2019, stripped back and uncompromising deserved the tag, however False God rounds the vision and populates it with a band of musical tricksters and makes his earlier album sound almost mundane.  “Seeing Things” and “Sick With The Flu” is a woozy drug or drink slurred poem with an earworm singalong edge.  If the ghost of Dennis Potter needs old sounding surreal songs for an Americana Dustbowl version of The Singing Detective then he needs Felix Hatfield’s number.  Infectious early jazz edge from Nate Lumbard’s Saxophones as rude and raw as Morphine’s Dana Colley, sits warmly alongside an acoustic shuffle and Felix’s croon with a burr.  

Like “Fairy Tale In New York” Hatfield manages to make lines like “Maybe you’re sick of me and I’m sick of you” sound warm and affectionate, like derelicts shouting their devotion at each other. It’s hard not to see a sense of Trumpian absurdity in the lyrics of the track “False God”. “Train To London” is as paired back as the earlier album, but atmospherics and warmer production wraps Felix’s hesitant love song in ambience and the sound of a distant train, creating something beautiful.  “Nobody For Me” is the reflections of a drifter, well observed, woozy and real.  Think of a folky less louche Leon Redbone, catching your eye while busking with a second vocal by Be Good Tanya’s founder Josie Holland. “Secret Society” is recorded live with a feel of 60s garage band edge and an infectious off beat chorus as surreal as The B52s.  “That Kiss” and “Walking Distance” again make great use of ambience before resolving as a delicate perfect duets between Hatfield and Holland and Esme Patterson with electronics swirling around wafts of brass.  “Her Crazy Days” could be a beautiful Beach Boys love song, lush and summery, but Hatfield sabotages it lyrical and adds in sometimes discordant brass, cause we all have crazy moments.  “Troubled Person” offers Felix raw, accompanied only a banjo, uncompromising and larger than life.  “Crazy Love” is a surreal country tinged telling of the dead rock star myth as told by The Addam’s Family Tex Mex band.  “Unicorn Woman” is as woozy and hypnotic as an Americana Syd Barrett, bruised and fragile as he spirals through some personal poetry.  “Lucky To Be A Sad Man” is a melancholic closer and uncomfortable mix of resigned sadness holding a glass of whisky and a sense of the triumphant freak as Felix sings on his own terms.  The spirit of the soundtrack music selected by David Lynch for Twin Peaks and the surreal word play and woozy delivery of 60s seers like Syd Barrett and Kevin Ayres, distilled through stripped back Americana and old time music 78s.  I don’t use the word unique lightly or often, this is part odd and part special, like being drunk without having drank.