Published 29 April 2010 by Tony Morley
I thought it was about time we revisited the 'Leaf Recommends' thing that we used to do on the old website - what seems like an age ago. It's likely to be fairly irregular, but I'll do my best. I'm going to try and get some of our artists to make suggestions as well, but first up is perhaps an unexpected choice for a recommendation...
After listening to two hours of Carl Sagan's superb Pale Blue Dot audiobook while out walking last week (now there's a recommendation), I fancied a bit of light relief, and found the ancient Housemartins compilation 'Now That's What I Call Quite Good' on my phone. I was a Housemartins fan back in the day - because they were from my home town of Hull as much as anything, and there wasn't much else around to engender local pride. Listening back I'm struck by the brilliantly observed lyrics, and how much of the subtlety I'd missed at the time.
Widely regarded as an ephemeral jangly guitar pop band, the compilation, released not long after the band split in 1988, was a largely successful attempt to reposition them as fully rounded artists. The thing that really comes across is an obvious passion for gospel and soul music that wasn't immediately apparent in the hits (with the notable exception of the acapella version of The Isley Brothers' 'Caravan Of Love', the band's only UK chart-topper). With 20-odd years hindsight, the fact that bassist Norman Cook followed the Housemartins with stints as Beats International, Freakpower and Fatboy Slim seems less of a musical non-sequitur than it did at the time.
The depressing possibility of a Conservative government back in power next week has been been inescapable recently. It's horrifying how quickly people forget, but maybe people are finally coming to their senses in the final days before the election. With the Tories breathing down our necks again, some of The Housemartin's more polemical songs, written against the backdrop of the Thatcher years, are worthy of another visit.
One song particularly hit home, a single that lobbed a brick through the window of Top Of The Pops, wrapped in a pink Le Shark polo shirt. 'Five Get Over Excited' masked its scabrous attack on over-privileged teenagers (read: Young Conservatives) in the most upbeat of student-friendly pop melodies - perfect for the Friday night disco. The killer blow comes in the coda, which will raise a shiver in anyone who remembers what the 80s were really like:
Feigning concern, a conservative pastime
Makes you feel doubtful right from the start
The expression she pulls is exactly like last time
You’ve got to conclude she just hasn’t a heart
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