PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Hawksley Workman: For Him and the Girls

All the ingredients for success are here, but the album still sounds like a first try.

Hawksley Workman

For Him and the Girls

Label: Isadora
US Release Date: 2009-11-17
UK Release Date: 2009-11-17

Hawksley Workman has gotten a fair bit of acclaim over the last decade, including some Juno success. Even with his music getting into some TV soundtracks, Workman's albums aren't exactly getting endcap space and are usually best sought as imports. With this reissue of 1999's debut album For Him and the Girls, Workman (Ryan Corrigan) finally gets the record a proper US release, just in time to help push (or tag along with) new albums Meat and Milk. While it's a strong debut, it also suffers from some first-album problems, but not so much that it isn't worth a visit.

All indie rock (and almost entirely written, performed, and produced by Workman), but part yodel, part prayer, part cry, and part glam, the album never settles into exactly what it is. That sort of scattershot approach reveals an artist who's flexible, but who hasn't yet figured out how to make an album. Fortunately each individual performance is strong enough to carry the work as a whole, but it's a little too long and too shifty to fully succeed.

The album opens wonderfully, with noise turning to yodel in "Maniacs", a song propelled by its tom-heavy drumming and lyrics turning from nonsense into vaguely political suggestiveness. The next track, "No Sissies", carries a steady pop groove with a catchy and comical chorus (perhaps a Canadian answer to "No Scrubs", or at least a pleasant deferment). Over the next few songs, Workman, showing a leaning for the stage (particularly one in a smoky hall), builds a nice little first half of an album. The problem is that we're not halfway through, and then the album drops off over the remaining portion.

"Tarantulove" and "Sweet Hallelujah" make for a strange pair, but their juxtaposition draws out musical and thematic tensions, and at this point the disc is still coherent. It's with "Don't Be Crushed" that the wheels start to come off. The slow lull of the song kills the momentum, and the calm encouragement doesn't work, partly due to clunky lines like "Thank god you're timeless / 'Cause my watch got stolen" and partly due to the usually strong vocalist seemingly trying to use some pitch issues as an aesthetic element.

For Him and the Girls never fully recovers, but some quality music hides out on the back half. "All of Us Kids" builds from a calm drum part into a chorus that's repressing its epic side. It's a nice piece of artistry, especially coupled with the violent imagery, and its one of the tracks with the most staying power. "Paper Shoes", while a bit artlessly graphic, uses a music hall version of slink to make a comical dancing boast and musical liberation. Both singing and dancing are "about sexual confidence", and and Workman plays with his song in a way that's always one step safe of a Flight of the Conchords moment (as with "I should have been a girl with the way I can dance / My moves are amazing"). For all its humor, though, the song remains half-seduction, keeping the listener off balance.

Given the quality of much of this album, it's a shame that For Him and the Girls doesn't quite hang together. Workman would put together a stellar disc just two years later with (Last Night We Were) The Delicious Wolves. All the ingredients for that sort of success are here on For Him and the Girls, but it still has the taste of a first try.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Is Carl Nevill's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.