London 0 - Hull 4 Deluxe Edition Box set, Deluxe Edition, Extra tracks
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Self proclaimed "4th best band in Hull", The Housemartins, originally released London 0 Hull 4 in October 1986, reaching number 3 in the charts. It features the perennial favourite "Happy Hour" alongside other singles "Flag Day", "Sheep" and "Think For A Minute". The classic album has now been expanded 2 discs with the second disc featuring various B-sides, outtakes and radio sessions, including eight previously unreleased tracks. The album is packaged in the sumptuous "deluxe Edition" packaging and the booklet features liner notes from Phill Jupitus, who got his break supporting the band during his Porky The Poet days.
Though dismissed by naysayers as a poor man's version of the Smiths, the Housemartins - along with the Style Council, Billy Bragg and the Redskins among others - were at the forefront of 80s agitpop. Blending socialist politics and Christianity with a dose of soul and gospel (the inner sleeve of the album exhorted fans to 'Take Jesus - Take Marx - Take Hope'), the 'fourth best band in Hull' wrapped barbed and frequently hard-hitting lyrics in insanely catchy melodies.
The 23 years since its original release have been surprisingly kind to the Housemartins. Whereas as many of their contemporaries have dated thanks to the production values of the day, their sound - with the caveat of a few bass solos replacing the then verboten guitar work outs - remains as fresh as it did in 1986 and it's almost depressing that their lyrics are as pertinent today as they were then.
The attack on political apathy in Sheep still seethes with a righteous anger as elsewhere, Sitting On A Fence is a well-aimed swipe at the values that '!see both sides of both sides'. It's still a thing of wonder that something as caustic as Happy Hour - an assault on corporate work culture and casual sexism - reached the UK Top 3.
Backed by soaring harmonies from bassist Norman Cook (then yet to become Fatboy Slim), guitarist Stan Cullimore and drummer Hugh Whitaker, the band's secret weapon was Paul Heaton's angelic voice. Bright and clear, his delivery ensured that the Housemartins never once fell into empty hectoring or radical postures while revealing a white soul voice to seriously rival Mick Hucknall's.
A second disc of B-sides, Peel Sessions and other rarities offers a lush a capella rendition of Curtis Mayfield's People Get Ready as Rap Around The Clock sees Norman Cook's interest in dance music coming to the fore.
Passionate, committed and uncompromising, London 0 Hull 4 maintains its unswerving capacity to entertain while still asking 'which side are you on?' --Julian Marszalek
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Let's start with the most annoying howler when it comes to Disc 2, which is after all the reason for most fans to buy this release (and who, other than longterm fans, will be considering this purchase?). The first two-thirds of this disc are clearly intended to be a complete set of B-sides from the L0H4-era singles, "Flag Day" through to "Think For A Minute", together with the utterly different single cuts of those two particular A-sides. However, on that score, someone has boobed, because where the B-side 7" version of "Drop Down Dead" should appear, we instead have the version from the 21/7/1985 John Peel session, as previously released on the 1988 "Now That's What I Call Quite Good" compilation. This means (if we're being REALLY fussy) that the liner art for this Deluxe release should include Ted Key, who played bass on that Peel Session (and the first single) before Norman Cook hove into view. But the bigger beef is that this means that the B-side 7" version of "DDD" is STILL yet to be released on CD.
Secondly, of the three tracks included from the 6/11/1985 Janice Long session and labelled as Unreleased, the version of "Freedom" used here was most definitely previously released, again on "Now That's What I Call Quite Good", despite it being credited in the booklet as ©2009 BBC (along with the other two). Who checks these things?
The other things are more minor curios and unnecessary missed opportunities. The Housemartins (or someone in the record company at the time) seemed to play a little fast and loose with very slightly different edits of B-sides at times. For example, the 7" and 12" cuts of "Who Needs The Limelight?" varied slightly a la the occasional mono vs stereo Beatles tracks, with the version on the 12" single of "Think For A Minute" being the same take but several seconds longer on the front, complete with false start and Paul Heaton yelling out "Hello Knebworth!". This Deluxe CD release opts instead for the version from the 7" B-side, which deletes the false start and Heaton yell. As the 12" cut contained the 7" version fully within it, it seems a shame someone didn't go the extra foot-and-a-half to make the Deluxe Edition track choice definitive.
By contrast, there is the version of "The Mighty 'Ship" used on this Deluxe release, supposedly as the B-side version from "Happy Hour". Ostensibly the same take as used on the 7" and 12" of "Happy Hour" as well as on the first CD edition of L0H4 and "Now That's What I Call Quite Good", the Deluxe Edition version has the roll-off fade at the end of the track delayed to make a longer final chord and there is a false start, similar to the 12" cut of "Who Needs The Limelight?". So AFAIK, this version appears to be otherwise unreleased, despite the tracklisters being seemingly unaware of this. Good to have of course, especially as the other version is well-represented elsewhere, but it's a little unnerving to have the compilers labelling released as unreleased and vice versa, as if they'd just grabbed any cut from the archives and stuck it down on the compilation master.
Talking of mastering, Disc 1 seems noticeably softer (less compressed?) than the bonus disc in this set, which is hard to explain.
This is a beautiful, beautiful set apart from the above, though, with the genuinely unreleased radio sessions being a lot of fun and well worth having (including the version of "We're Not Deep" with completely different verses!). The good news is that it doesn't make owners of Live At The BBC think they've had to double-dip. The bits of bad news lie in the above bits of sloppiness.
I wonder if a similar set will follow for "The People Who Grinned Themselves To Death", and whether it will necessarily include the many B-sides from the between-albums 12" of "Caravan Of Love"?
Sadly, I have to add two more complaints: The intro of "Who Needs The Limelight" is missing, and "The Mighty Ship" sounds different to all the previous releases of that song. I'm not sure if it's an outtake or a session version, but it's definitely not the normal studio version. Although that's in fact very interesting, I would have loved to have the original version remastered and this previosly unreleased version credited correctly.
The most frustrating thing however is that the original b-side version of "Drop Down Dead" and some of the acapella b-sides remain unavailable on CD!
On the plus side, the bonus disc is nearly completing the "Live at the BBC" compilation, and maybe we'll get the rest of what we need from the Deluxe Edition of "The People Who Grinned Themselves To Death", which will hopefully follow sooner or later.
Originally released on CD/Vinyl/cassette in 1986. CD did sound a bit flat.
This 2CD is remastered with much better sound quality.
British pop/rock at its best while the Smiths were out of town or misbehaving in Manchester eg Johnny Marr loaning Noel Gallagher(Oasis) an electric guitar.
Pity about the drummer <Whitaker> going a bit didlo and having to be released from his contract with record label for obvious reasons.!
Stan Cullimore looks a bit like Hank Marvin circa 1958.
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