Review: Hipsway – 30th Anniversary Edition

If you’re organised enough to have a section of your ’80s record collection headed “Mid ’80s Scottish Bands That Should Have Been Much Bigger Than They Were”, no doubt you’ll have at least one Hipsway record in there. Formed in 1984 by guitarist Johnny McElhone following the demise of his previous band Altered Images, Hipsway at least outdid the other acts filed alongside them – Love & Money, Win, The Big Dish and so on – by scoring a top twenty hit on both sides of the Atlantic in 1986 with the irresistible The Honeythief.

Inevitably it’s the band’s biggest hit that opens their début album, originally released in April 1986 and now available again as a double CD. Disc one takes in the nine tracks from the original LP release, The Honeythief setting the tone* for forty hugely enjoyable minutes of jangly guitars, taut snare drums and the mellifluous baritone of frontman Grahame Skinner. Unusually, apart from the hit single, perhaps the most familiar track here isn’t one of the band’s other singles but the brooding Tinder, whose blaring horns and “Setting the world, set it on fire” refrain soundtracked one of those big budget Scottish lager ads of the time. Elsewhere, other singles The Broken Years, Long White Car and Ask The Lord are all present and correct, the latter appearing twice on disc one as the revamped 1986 single version has been appended to the end of the original album.

In fact, if you’re not already familiar with Ask The Lord you will be by the end of disc two, as it appears four more times on the second disc in two extended versions, a Dance Mix and a Dub Mix. Indeed, CD2 rounds up fifteen remixes and B-side tracks; a welcome repository of pretty much everything from the album’s accompanying singles even if, as is so often the case with such collections, you might not want to listen to the whole thing from start to finish in one go unless you’re a real Hipsway fan. If you are, you’ll enjoy Grahame Skinner’s enlightening sleevenotes about the album and the band’s brush with success. You’ll also be excited to learn that the band is reforming for two Glasgow concerts in support of the album; McElhone quit the band in 1988 to form Texas while a new Hipsway line-up released second album Scratch The Surface in 1989 to little acclaim and split shortly after. It’s heartening to see the band getting behind this reissue; hopefully it will go some way towards turning a great overlooked ’80s album into just a great ’80s album.

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*You should also have Set The Tone in your Mid ’80s Scottish Bands That Should Have Been Much Bigger Than They Were section.


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