Thursday, 25 June 2009

If Liking Them is Wrong I Don't Want to Be Right

It would be rude of me not to share the news that London 0 Hull 4, the debut album by the Housemartins, has just been rereleased as a remastered Deluxe Edition double CD package. Sadly, I can offer no reliable advice whether you should buy this album because I love the Housemartins a bit too much and have no capacity for discerning between my feelings and the quality of their work. But I'm sure it's ace.

I can tell you that Flag Day, Freedom, Get Up off Our Knees, Sheep, Anxious and Think for a Minute (fast and slow versions) mean as much to me as the more celebrated Happy Hour. And
We’re Not Deep beats them all hands down.

For the totally uninitiated, musically London 0 Hull 4 is a jaunty, jangly pop album punctuated with the odd piano driven gospel-inspired number. Peppered with the barbershop harmonies they became famous for after Caravan of Love (not included here) it doesn’t try to be arty or cool like their more lauded eighties indie contemporaries which only added to their purposefully dorky appeal.

Gently simmering under the surface are Paul (then P.d.) Heaton's biting and often very funny lyrics railing against greed (Anxious), apathy (Get Up off Our Knees, Sitting on a Fence), sexism (Happy Hour), the herd mentality (Sheep), the right wing press (Freedom), self-righteous hypocrisy (Flag Day) and the death of communities (Think for a Minute). Just to seal the deal an inscription inside says 'don't try gate crashing a party full of bankers. burn the house down.' Admittedly not everyone’s mug of tea but definitely one of my favourite brews.

That said, the CD version of London 0 Hull 4 I grew up with (“16 songs – 17 hits!”) always felt a bit imbalanced by the retrospective addition of three gospel covers. As much as I like them they add to the view that their a capella Jesus period had greater significance than was the case. You only have to watch the video for Caravan of Love or listen to the ‘sermonette’ on b-side Heaven Help Us All to know that they were taking the piss a bit, even if their love of a capella was totally genuine (they once supported themselves at a gig as the Fish City Five, performing only a capella).

The lure of remastering
and the chance to get hold of the early b-sides on compact disc are enough for me to part with my money but in truth the disc of b-sides, live tracks and radio sessions is a little disappointing – especially as many of the tracks are already available across 1988’s excellent Now That’s What I Call Quite Good and 2006’s Live at the BBC. It would have been more interesting to include some of the better unreleased songs from their Demostatic or Themes for the Well Dressed Man bootlegs. Maybe Paul and Stan just don’t like them. Better still would have been a DVD of peak period Housemartins with film clips, live performances and especially the London 0 Hull 4 documentary featuring Hugh’s guide to toast and a tour of the local bun shop by Stan. Hopefully next time.

There is no anniversary to mark (the album was first released in 1986, with the band splitting two years later) so it’s not clear why this reissue is coming out now. It could have been prompted by the
London 0 Hull 4-themed sports headlines in 2008 when Hull City were flying high in the Premiership and beat four London teams on the trot. But I doubt it.

Anyway, if you don’t have this album, then yes, buy now. You won’t be disappointed and you'll discover a few gems for your shuffle playlist.
This is the sound of a totally original band, completely out of step with everything and happy to remain that way. However for those short on cash I’d be tempted to find a cheap copy of Now That’s What I Call Quite Good and join me in waiting for the eventual release of the goodies that the band and/or record label are still sitting on, including hopefully a remastered People Who Grinned Themselves to Death.

London 0 Hull 4 (Deluxe Edition) Tracklisting

DISC 1 (original album)
Happy Hour - Get Up Off Our Knees - Flag Day – Anxious - Reverends Revenge - Sitting On A Fence – Sheep - Over There - Think For A Minute - We’re Not Deep - Lean On Me - Freedom


1. Flag Day (original single version) 2. Stand At Ease (Flag Day B-side) 3. You (Flag Day B-side) 4. Coal Train To Hatfield Main (Flag Day B-side) 5. I’ll Be Your Shelter (Sheep B-side) 6. People Get Ready (Sheep B-side) 7. Drop Down Dead (Sheep B-side) 8. The Mighty Ship (Happy Hour B-side) 9. He Ain’t Heavy (Happy Hour B-side) 10. Think For A Minute (original single version) 11. Who Needs The Limelight (Think For A Minute B-side) 12. I Smell Winter (Think For A Minute B-side) 13. Joy Joy Joy (Think For A Minute B-side) 14. Rap Around The Clock (Think For A Minute B-side) 15. Lean On Me (unreleased outtake) 16. Anxious (Janice Long BBC session 6/11/85) 17. We’re Not Deep (Janice Long BBC session 6/11/85) 18. Freedom (Janice Long BBC session 6/11/85) 19. Think For A Minute (Saturday Live BBC session 4/1/86) 20. Drop Down Dead (Saturday Live BBC session 4/1/86) 21. Happy Hour (John Peel BBC session 6/4/86) 22. Get Up Off Our Knees (John Peel BBC session 6/4/86)

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