Hefner has built quite a reputation in the UK with their unique brand of art-pop, and there is quite a bit of hype surrounding the release of this album. Perhaps it's not fair to hold them up to hype they didn't ask for, but nonetheless, I couldn't help but feel disappointed. For a band that is supposed to be cutting edge, the album sounds like it could have been made 15 or 20 years ago. Indeed, as co-frontman Darren Hayman reports on the group's website, the band was listening to Human League and Kraftwerk albums at the time of recording, as well as buying old synthesizers. It shows. Most songs don't stray much beyond the synth pop we heard in the '80s, and you won't detect much forward-thinking in song structure or lyrical subject matter, either. Sure, instead of a guitar solo after the second chorus, it's a weird synth solo, but the formula has been heard so many times in rock songs that it doesn't sound nearly as fresh as the work of other electronic groups.
As for the lyrics, some songs deal with interesting subject matter, but stray regularly into cliched topics ("Trouble Kid" is self-explanatory, and there are a few about ex-girlfriends). "Alan Bean" is at least an interesting concept -- an ode to the fourth man on the moon, who decided to give up being an astronaut to become a painter as a symbol for never giving up on your dreams -- but the message is delivered in a heavy-handed and pandering style. It is also hard to overlook the trio's vocal limitations. The guys share vocal duties, and all come across as sincere and honest, but they're hindered by a serious lack of range that especially is apparent on the high parts of "Junk".
There are good moments ("The King of Summer" for one, is a good time, with happy hand claps and a catchy melody), and the songs are obviously the result of an admirable dedication to craft. You have to admire Hefner's artistic spirit -- but Dead Media is too flawed and derivative to earn serious praise.