Thursday, March 05, 2009

The bands that should have been bigger (2)



The Housemartins
by Claude

Back when 'indie' music epitomised the idea of something specific to say rather than posing about in TopMan clothes sucking your cheeks in, The Housemartins showed that there was hope beyond posters of Simon Le Bon and Tony Hadley. However, their ascent lasted a mere three years. By the time the country took notice of the Hull four-piece, they disbanded in 1988, their full potential never fully released.

Two decades on, Paul Heaton would win hands down the Award as Britain's Most Underrated Lyricist. While his contemporary Morrissey is routinely hailed as the 80s best lyrical genius, many overlook the blend of social consciousness and vitrolic wit that made the 'Martins so unique. Their debut album in particular, London 0 Hull 4, was a rallying call for a generation overshadowed by the suffocating grip of mid-to-late 80s yuppism.

Musically, the Housemartins combined infectious rhythms and vintage rock'n'roll tinges with the tasteful, 50s flavoured work of guitarist Stan Cullimore. If you're still unconvinced, play their their genius, zany videos and remember that in the meantime Duran Duran were doing A View to A Kill. You'll get the general idea.

Defining track: Happy Hour ("London 0 Hull 4", 1986)

Power Of Dreams
by Mark Reed

Lead by Craig Walker, a kind of embryonic Bono without the annoying bits, Power Of Dreams supported almost everyone in the world, released about 10 singles and 2 albums in a couple of years, then were dropped when Nirvana happened. They struggled gamely on as an independent, releasing a couple more albums which sold literally handfuls and now command huge prices on Ebay. Their career reads like U2's up to a point.

At the make-or-break point where they could have become huge or sunk, they were dropped and vanished. Demos from the period shows the band were fiercely prolific, with dozens of fully finished songs never released at the time, and some of them easily equal to the album tracks. The early stuff was heartfelt, sincere, painfully raw, and developed quickly into a dense narrative world where the band were capable of almost everything. Like early U2, but much much better.

Defining track: There I Go Again ("2 Hell with Common Sense", 1992)


Prefab Sprout
by Stan Moss

The best outfit ever to originate from County Durham netted plenty of critical appraisal but never widespread commercial success. They were often cited as avant garde, perhaps the result of Paddy McAloon's multi-layered, evocative lyrics. In a parallel universe, no doubt their album Steve McQueen is being hailed as one of the 80s' finest. They scored a semi-hit with King Of Rock'n'Roll in 1990, but then disappeared into oblivion, gentle and discreet, exactly like their music.

Defining track: Faron Young ("Steve McQueen", 1985)

Salad
by Emma

Ok, the stonewashed denim was a mistake (even though it was the 90s), but musically they were spot-on. Their first album Drink Me was a masterpiece of post-grunge angst, combined with both ethereal and contemporary lyrics touching on issues such as domestic violence and the mundanity of petty bourgeois life (the song Kent, for example) as well as more dreamlike ballads like Motorbike to Heaven. A nice antidote to 'Britpop'. It's a shame they didn't last.

Defining track: Drink the Elixir ("Drink Me", 1995)

Click here for The bands that should have been bigger -PART ONE

1 comment:

a very public sociologist said...

Drink the Elixir! Aaaah, the memories!