Since September 2010, this blog has recorded the journey of this middle-aged man as I attempt to listen to all the music in my CD collection. CDs revisited in their entirety from start to finish - no skipping tracks, no shuffle. CDs only - no vinyl, no tapes, no downloads. And just as CD technology (and the album format itself) becomes obsolete. I'm no music critic, just a music junkie with too much time on my hands.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Haircut 100 - Paint and Paint (1984)

EU Import

Note: this release was originally purchased as an LP, later replaced by a Deluxe Edition CD, which, according to the Cherry Red website, "includes all the original album tracks, related bonus tracks, nine development mixes from the band's own archives and four BBC session tracks dating from May 1984."

After recording one of my favorite albums of 1982, lead singer and main songwriter Nick Heyward left Haircut 100 due to personal issues. Percussionist Mark Fox took over lead vocal duties and actually does a good job.  What's really missing on Paint And Paint is Heyward's songwriting gift - there aren't many memorable melodies here, but there's plenty of typical H100 grooves.  Besides letting Heyward go, the band made three additional mistakes: 1) they changed labels from Arista to Polydor, 2) they experimented with different drummers, and 3) they experimented with different producers.  (On the other hand, Heyward stuck with Arista, hired The Beatles' engineer Geoff Emerick to produce his exquisite debut solo album, North of a Miracle).

Smash Hits, July 5, 1984, p. 21

It's no Pelican West, but how could it be?  Truth be told, it's better than I thought it would be with side 2 being much better than side 1.  However, this release tanked commercially in the UK, wasn't released in the US, and the band quickly fell apart.  In 2004, VH1 put the band back together for an episode of their "Bands Reunited" series, then again in 2011 for a one-off concert.

Bonus points for wonderful liner notes/booklet, but I've come to expect that from a Cherry Red re-release.

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: Not released in US.

Original Album:
  • Fish in a Bowl:  Starting with familiar H100 guitar and horn licks, you initially can't tell any difference between this album and Pelican West, then the vocals kick in and you can tell a little bit.  But when the disconnected chorus comes around, you know notice a big difference in songwriting.  So even though the verse, chorus, and bridge sound completely unrelated, the groove is good - you can tell Bob Sargeant had his hand in producing this one.
  • Immaterial: Much like the previous track, the verse and chorus don't really seem to go together.  The syncopated groove is a little different for H100, but the chugging guitar part moves things along in a recognizable way.
  • So Tired: the second single released from the album (probably because of its similarities to Love Plus One) this peaked at 94 on the UK chart.  It starts off promising, but by the chorus, the whole thing sounds, well, tired.
  • Hidden Years: While there's a tropical feel to this one, it's uninteresting filler with one of the most boring percussion breaks ever recorded.  The horn solos are its only redeeming features.
  • 40-40 Home: Now things finally start cooking.  I've got no idea what they're singing about (guitarist Graham Jones claims it's about his childhood home), but this thing is as catchy as anything on Pelican West. 
  • High Noon: Another boring, disconnected chorus makes me want to go ahead and move on to what was Side Two on the LP.
  • Too Up, Two Down: the third single, this one didn't chart and I can't see why not, it's a catchy thing that contains one of the better choruses on the album.  Great arrangement and production (Sargeant again). 
  • Benefit of the Doubt: can a melody be this disjunct and still memorable?  There's an unusual tropical meets ska-lite feel to the whole thing and somehow it works for me.  Go figure.
  • Prime Time:  the lead single, this funk tune peaked at #46 on the UK chart.  Smooth vocals interrupted by jagged horn parts.  It's good - I can see what it was chosen as a single.
  • Where Do You Run To Now?:  a ballad?!?  It actually starts off with a fantastic hook, but after two measures it completely falls apart and the hook is wasted.  I enjoy the soft rock sax solo, though.
  • Infatuation: the album finishes strong with the characteristic H100 pop/soft funk sound.  After an odd introduction, there's lots of things to like about this one: the sax parts, slap bass, the rhythm guitar, there's even some piano here and there.
Bonus tracks:
  • Too Up Two Down (7" Remix): the rare case where the 7" version is the same length as the album version. I can tell the mix has been touched up a bit with a bit of synth pad, but there's little difference. Didn't matter much as this single didn't break into the UK charts.
  • Evil Smokestacking Baby: the b-side of Too Up Two Down. Described in the liner notes by bassist Les Nemes as "filler...came from a bass line that I had been messing around with for years and was inspired by having listened to Stanley Clarke." I hear no Clarke influence; this instrumental sounds more like Simple Minds to me. It bears no resemblance to any other H100 tune I've ever heard, yet it mesmerizes me.
  • After It's All Been Said And Done: included on the 12" single release of Too Up Two Down. This is the closest this group gets to sounding like Nick Heyward. Maybe that's why they didn't want to include it on the album. I also notice there's no mention of it in the liner notes, but I'm always looking for a conspiracy theory.
  • Prime Time (Late Night Shopping Version): the 12" extended remix of the first single. Any good? Well, it includes an ill-advised rap breakdown section and an off-key appropriation of Lennon's Give Peace A Chance if that tells you anything. Yikes. 
  • So Tired (Extended Version - Long Slumber): the 12" mix. Typical '80s extended version - an instrumental bit added at the beginning.
  • Fish In A Bowl (Deeper Version): included on the 12" single of So Tired. Typical '80s extended version - an instrumental bit added at the beginning.
  • From the website: "The next nine tracks were supplied by the band from their own archives. They feature working mixes taken straight from the mixing desk during the recording sessions for the band to listen to at home and work on additional arrangements and brass parts. They offer a unique insight as to how the tracks took shape. Six of the tracks made the final album and the other three are heard for the first time on this release." Demos. The band's homework, in other words. Sorry, no "unique insight" to be found here. Move along. I'd be upset at the inclusion of these tunes, but since this was a budget-priced release (2 CDs for $12.99), I'll consider the second CD of the set to be free.
  • The last four tracks were recorded at the BBC for a session on the David Jensen show. They were aired on his show on May 13, 1984. (On a completely unrelated note, I graduated from high school 12 days later.) I was expecting more "live in studio" takes but these are too produced and sterile for what I expect of BBC session tracks. None of these four add anything to the earlier recorded versions.
Bottom line, I'd have been okay with a one disc re-release that didn't include the demos and live tunes, just the original album along with b-sides and remixes. 

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: I hadn't heard this album until about 15 years after its release when I picked up a used import vinyl copy on eBay.  I wasn't expecting much, so I wasn't disappointed.  

Previously revisited for the blog:
Live At The IndigO2 28th Jan 2011 (2011)
The Greatest Hits of Nick Heyward & Haircut 100 (1996)
The Best of Nick Heyward & Haircut 100 (1989)
Pelican West (1982)

Full disclosure: portions of this post appeared previously over on the My Favorite Decade blog. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

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