Pelican West (Deluxe Edition)
Brit-Funk 6-piece Haircut 100 ‘s near chart topper ‘’Pelican West’’ has been given a new lease of life thanks to Cherry Red Records. The album has been given the full deluxe treatment and it now comes as a 2-cd set with disc one comprising the full studio album, plus B sides and the non-album top ten single ‘’Nobody’s Fool’’, while the second disc comprises a total of thirteen songs, including 12” versions of their singles, previously unreleased tracks and a live version of the top ten hit single ‘’Fantastic Day’’.
Haircut 100 became an overnight pop sensation after being signed by Arista Records in 1981. Within a matter of weeks of being signed to the label they scored a top 5 hit with their debut single ‘’Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl)’’. Within a year they had a prolific run of three top ten singles ‘’Love Plus One’’, ‘’Fantastic Day’’ and ‘’Nobody’s Fool’’ and a platinum selling album. Their debut long player ‘’Pelican West’’ hit number two in the album charts and stayed there for 34 weeks and could boast 300,000 album sales by the close of 1982.
Sadly Haircut 100 would never repeat this success and when the band decided to record their follow-up ‘’Paint and Paint’’ in 1984, they did so without Nick Heyward, who went on to pursue a solo career. To record an album without the singer and songwriter may seem foolhardy and so it proved as the album was ignored by their fans and by the fickle music press of the day.
However, 1982 was Haircut 100’s year and their uplifting and infectiously breezy toe tapping funk pop sound frequented the FM airwaves with almost annoying regularity. Their singles in particular were almost perfectly formed and all came in at around the three-minute mark and were effortlessly catchy, with hummable melodies, sing a long choruses, exuberant stabs of brass, and elements of danceable jazz funk, which made Haircut 100’s songs (whether you like them or not) easily accessible, and instantly recognisable to the point of being indelibly etched in the listeners head.
Often dismissed as a pop band that you parents or little brother and sister would like, it is fair to say that Haircut 100 lacked the kudos and credibility of uber cool outfits like Orange Juice and The Smiths. Haircut 100 may have lacked the wry humour and morose observations of the aforementioned but is it not fair to say that music is essentially a hedonistic pleasure? And Haircut 100 did what all-great pop bands do and that was make maddeningly hook laden pop songs with catchy lyrics and melodies.
Haircut 100 had a clean-cut musical and sartorial aesthete that made them an attractive proposition to a young audience, and having a number of songs already written it was not surprising that they were attracting the interest of numerous record companies before signing to Arista Records. Having a foppish and boyishly pretty front man also did the band’s cause no harm at all, and it would be fair to assume that Nick Heyward must have adorned the front cover of Smash Hits with alarming regularity in the early 1980s.
So how does ‘’Pelican West’’ stand up thirty-four years after it’s initial release? It is an album that is most definitely rooted in 1982 and it is difficult to imagine this record existing in any other time period. However, what is striking for a group often dismissed, as just another boy band is that they were musically knowledgeable, and the album demonstrated a diverse range of musical influences that were woven together seamlessly to create a sound that was uniquely their own and without a single whiff of pastiche.
Haircut 100 cleverly meshed disco, post punk, funk and classic pop to produce an (at the time) ultra modern slickly produced album. The album’s clever song sequence sees it open with the straight right, left combination of two of their best-known songs, ‘’Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl)’’ and ‘’Love Plus One’’. It was a shrewd gamble to open the album up with two singles in a row, and the result as Haircut 100 surely knew was that ‘’Pelican West’’ was a pop album that could not be ignored.
The comparison with their contemporaries Orange Juice is not difficult to hear on white boy funk workouts like ‘’Lemon Firebrigade’’ and ‘’Marine Boy’’. The production is glossy and slick but not to the point where the songs are thinned out and tinny sounding. There is an almost Tropicana flavour to these two particular tracks because of the exuberant sounding brass section and percussion, but the songs still sound defiantly pop.
If there is one other candidate for a single on this album then it is surely ‘’Milk Film’’, which segues seamlessly into ‘’Kingsize (You’re My Little Steam Whistle)’’, and then ‘’Fantastic Day’’ which presumably everybody knows even sub consciously. At this stage of the album it would be fair to say that ‘’Pelican West’’ has just enough depth to make it a little bit more than a throwaway pop record with novelty appeal.
Nick Heyward’s lyrics often verge on the nonsensical and do not bear up too much scrutiny when read in isolation. ‘’Snow Girl’’, ‘’Love’s Got Me In Triangles’’ and album closer ‘’Calling Captain Autumn’’ all demonstrate that Nick Heyward must have written these songs at random, and despite the utter nonsense of the lyrics they absolutely work in the context of the album.
It is difficult to see ‘’Pelican West’’ connecting with casual listeners or the snooty so-called rock n roll elite, because it is an album that is defiantly and unashamedly a 1980s pop record. If you were a fan of Haircut 100 back in 1982 then this is a worthy purchase especially for all the bonus material that is included on disc 2. However, if you are an uninhibited pop music fan then ‘’Pelican West’’ is worth the price of admission just for the four sparkling pop singles alone. BUY HERE!