Haircut One Hundred - Paint and Paint

Haircut One Hundred: “Paint and Paint” Deluxe Edition

We all know the story of Haircut 100, don’t we? A frothy, insubstantial pop group who scored a quartet of top ten hits and an almost number one album Pelican West in 1982; a stepping stone on lead singer Nick Heyward’s journey to becoming a serious artist, fading into obscurity when he left for an inevitable solo career… right?

It’s not as simple as that, of course, and Haircut One Hundred was always far more than Nick Heyward’s backing band. Following his departure they regrouped with percussionist Marc Fox assuming vocal and lyric writing duties, fought for – and won – the right to carry on using the Haircut 100 name, changed record labels and released three further singles and a second album Paint and Paint. Out of print since it was originally issued back in 1984, Cherry Pop have brought it back to life with a cache of B-sides, 12″ mixes, work-in-progress “development mixes” and a session for David “Kid” Jensen’s Radio One show.

The irony is, despite the less than amicable split, the band and its former frontman were pursuing similar musical paths at this time. Although commercially successful, the bits of Pelican West that weren’t hit singles often threatened to drift into whimsy – see Lemon Firebrigade, Milk Film, Kingsize (You’re My Little Steam Whistle) and so on. Paint and Paint steers clear of this trap; it bristles with multi-layed horn sections, proper grown-up production and actual song structures where their début had occasionally been rather short on lyrics. In fact the album’s highlights come when they’re not trying too hard to sound like old school Haircut 100: Immaterial, Infatuation and Hidden Years are just great pop songs and any resemblance to the band’s earlier material is purely coincidental. First single Prime Time, on the other hand, is feather light; adorned with the requisite H100 jangly guitars, the chorus is defiantly catchy but desperately lacks a song to support it. The single limped to number 46 in the UK chart after four top ten hits with Heyward and effectively torpedoed their chart career. Follow-ups So Tired and Too Up, Two Down are much better but by now the damage was done; Nick had established himself as a solo artist, Wham! and Culture Club were grabbing all the headlines, Frankie was waiting in the wings and by the time the album finally emerged in February 1984, the band’s moment had passed.

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From this distance, Paint and Paint is a great pop album which easily holds its own with Heyward’s contemporary solo début North of a Miracle and is – perish the thought – actually a more enjoyable listen than Pelican West. Having lain dormant for over three decades, this reissue of Paint and Paint is long overdue and with band vs singer rivalries long since put aside, it should now receive the acclaim it deserved at the time.

8/10