The Housemartins - London 0 Hull 4
Something is awry here. I’ve still got all of my teeth and a healthy moptop and yet the albums of my youth are being re-issued left, right and centre. That slimmer, sharper version of me from 20 years ago would have laughed out loud at the idea that he’d be reviewing Happy Hour in 2009. Hell, 2009 seemed like a myth back then, when even 1999 was nothing more than a space-age dream.
And yet, here we are. Ch, ch, ch, changes, and where better to find changes than in the remnants of the Housemartins themselves? Look at Quentin, fresh faced and eager to impress with his bass - he somehow hooked up with a Grange Hill starlet and released Dub Be Good To Me; tapping right into the Madchester zeitgeist before reinventing himself as Fatboy Slim and marrying Johnny Ball’s daughter. This chameleon like existence seems almost predictable when set against the fate of drummer Hugh Whittaker, who attacked a business partner with an axe, or Stan Cullimore, a lifelong vegan whose veggie business venture collapsed, sending him over the edge and into carnivorous hell. Of the rest, one becomes a maths teacher and the other part of the biggest selling songwriting duo since Lennon and McCartney. I need a little time to think it over.
So, with all this flux and chaos, what of the album? Surely it is a dog best left to sleep? Not a bit of it as their Flying Pickets meets The Smiths pop sensibilities have withstood the ravages of time and fashion and can still bring a smile to the face and a spring to the step. Happy Hour remains one of the all time great British pop singles and whilst, like the Wedding Present, all the songs do kinda sound the same it would be a cold, dead heart that denied songs as uplifting as Get up off our knees and Sheep. Take them at face value or wallow in their wry take on modern british life, either way they are essential listening.
This is all very well I hear you cry but I’ve already got the singles up in the loft and I’m sure I downloaded this album from Napster a few years back. Sorry chum but they are ahead of you. This isn’t just a Housemartins reissue, this is a Deluxe Housemartins reissue so you get an extra disc featuring a mind melting 22 rarities and outtakes. Worth owning as a piece of social history as you plough through such diverse material as a straight cover of He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother and the totally bizarre Rap around the clock which has an innocent, beguiling charm and reminds us how young the genre of rap is.
This is music from a time when young kids formed bands and made clever, danceable guitar music which were relevant – they were part of all of our lives and consciousnesses in a way that we’ll probably never see again. One listen to Happy Hour and I guarantee you’ll be racking your brains to remember what else you were listening to all those years ago when the charts featured The Beastie Boys next to The Smiths, The Cure, Bon Jovi, Twisted Sister, Mel and Kim and The Sisters of Mercy. I wonder if the reissue of Lady Gaga’s Poker Face will have the same effect in 2029?