on 7 April 2007
Back in the day, I loved everything about The Housemartins. Their music was obviously great but it was that and their stubborness against 'being' cool that made them so cool. I remember them being very spotty and then singing gospel acapellas on the "Good Afternoon" show on ITV and still coming across as so much more clued up than most of the other bands around this time. Their Little BBC documentary 'London 0 Hull 4" which was shown as part of "Rock around the clock" day in 1986 was taped and re-watched many times and it effortlessly captures a bleak North of Thatcher's England in a time when kids still played football in the street and kaghouls were the height of fashion. The Housemartins preached Marx and pushed socialism as easily as they enthused about Jesus, a brave move in pop music we all thought, but "Caravan of Love" was a Christmas number one so what did we know? There's plenty of gospel accapellas on this new CD which still sound fab, particularly "Heaven Help Us All" and "So Glad".
Much like their 80s contemporaries like The Smiths, The Cure, The Bunnymen and New Order, The Housemartins have been re-packaged re-packaged !! enough, but this is a highly welcome addition. Some tracks don't sound too different to the ones we've known and grown to love, but as with most BBC sessions there is a freshness and a rawness that makes these songs sound fresh again and there are enough rarities to keep the die-hards pleased too. The overplayed "Happy Hour" sounds different enough hear to listen with new ears, "Drop Down Dead" and "We're not Deep" are similar highlights and there is a good collection of live tracks at the end which reminded me of some of the great times I saw them play in Liverpool in '86.
The Beautiful South (whom I admired greatly) did to some degree take away the DIY ethic of The Housemartins' story, particularly towards their pipe and slippers final albums and have become to many, a typical Radio 2 band, but for every "A Little Time" or "Rose of my Cologne" there was an "Old Red Eyes" or a "Pretenders to the throne" , and Paul Heaton remains a vastly under-rated song-writer and all round good bloke, and this little collection of 'Martins classsics is a great way of reminding us where it all began and a shameless excuse to "bom bom" along to "Caravan of Love" all over again.