Today’s POP RESCUE from an uncertain future, is the 1982 debut album Pelican West by British group Haircut One Hundred. Is this album a cut above the rest, or like a dodgy perm? Read on…
This 12 track album opens with the speedy guitar work of lead single Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl). Rapid percussion carries us straight into the vocals which are absolutely 80s sounding track, also aided perfectly by Nick Heyward‘s sharp vocals. There’s plenty of brass bursting through this track as the bassline winds its way to the end. A great little upbeat number.
This is followed by second single Love Plus One, which whilst it also has plenty of guitar, it is much more mellow with a slower beat. There’s some nice ‘aye yah yah yah’s in this song that help it be memorable and somewhat catchy. Obligatory 80s Saxophone makes plenty of appearances here at the command of Phil Smith.
This is followe by Lemon Firebrigade (what a great song title). The song is somewhat jazzy with plenty of congas, brass, and a chilled out bass. Apart from the brief repeating of the song title at the start, there’s basically no other vocals. This allows the band’s musical ability to really shine, resulting in a chilled track I could easily play in the background.
Somewhat reminiscent of the guitar intro of the first tracks is Marine Boy. Brass leads us into the verse where vocals return but are much softer and almost dreamy, with some gentle backing vocals. We’re soon back to Brazilian-styled percussion, but this time joined by a piano and sax over a kind of disco beat that wouldn’t go a-miss on a Sister Sledge album.
A speeding car whizzes by at the start of Milk Film, but that aside this song lacks anything particular to make it stand out amongst the rest.
Side One closes with Kingsize (You’re My Little Steam Whistle). Again, we’re dealt that speedy guitar strumming whilst Nick sings over the top. The song is again fairly jazzy, giving it plenty of sax right up to the end.
Side Two opens with hit single Fantastic Day, the one and only song that recognise by the band. With a new side comes a new sound. This song has a great tempo, beat, and even the vocals feel different. This song is really catchy, and understandably a hit, complete with some great vocal harmonies.
Oddly named Baked Bean follows, starting with some nice heavier guitars and guitars. The track then bursts with percussion and Nick’s ‘Yah yah yah yah‘ vocals. This song is quite funky with plenty of guitar and brass throughout. Sadly the final part feels a bit over-indulgent with little else but percussion.
Up next is Snow Girl, which at times sounds like it could be a missing Lennon and McCartney track…. Well, almost, through a kind of 60’s Drive My Car beat.
Love’s Got Me In Triangles is next, and is the only track here to be co-written by Nick, with bassist Les Nemes. This song has yet more of that pacey guitar strumming a la Sister Sledge, but is joined by a wonderful use of sax, acting as a perfect contrast, even for a key change. Momentarily, this sounds like a blaxploitation film soundtrack.
Penultimate track Surprise Me Again feels quite upbeat, musically and vocally, with Nick hitting some momentary high notes. This track seems to echoe guitar and vocal style from something in the 50s but I can’t quite put my finger on what.
The album closes with Calling Captain Autumn, itself opening with birdsong and some funky beats, guitars and brass. Samples of someone talking on a radio. There’s some great catchy ‘bah bah bah’ moments, and the end result is a speedy and catchy track. If this never made it onto a soundtrack then it should at least have made it as a single. A great ending!
Where are Haircut One Hundred now?
After this album, they released one further single Nobody’s Fool before Nick left. This reached #9. The group released one further album Paint And Paint in 1984 but it failed to chart in the UK.
Their final single, So Tired, was released in 1983, but aptly flailed at #94 in the UK.
This album was re-issued in 1992 as Pelican West Plus with 5 bonus tracks.
Four of the band members reunited in 2011 for a performance of the entirety of this album, which gained them media attention including an interview and performance on ITV’s Lorraine TV show. They also performed at 2011’s Rewind Festival.
POP RESCUE RATING
Over all, this album has some great 80s sounds – most notably the vocal style is sharp, and the amount of brass and sax is high. There’s also a sense of disco running through this, which of course was dying at this part of the 80s, and allowing this album to take a lighter pop sound.
Whilst the lyrics aren’t amazing in several of the songs, and a few sound very similar, the tracks that sound different really do shine.
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 3 / 5
- 1982 UK ALBUM CHART POSITION: #2, certified Platinum.
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.99 from an Oxfam store.