Haircut One Hundred "Paint And Paint" (1984)

Haircut One Hundred were a fairly short-lived English band from the early-'80's new wave era. The sextet's 1982 album Pelican West -- their only album released in the U.S. -- spawned two American radio hits in "Love Plus One" and "Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl)", which were infectiously droll ska-influenced pop numbers with irresistable hooks and horns. "Fantastic Day" (a U.K. Top 10 single) and "Calling Captain Autumn" are almost as good, but most of the other songs on Pelican West are less catchy and memorable, especially when they venture into funk territory (where "Love's Got Me In Triangles" plods). Although it falls short of essential new-wave classic status, the album is still a pleasant happy-go-lucky pop offering, particularly well-suited for late-summertime listening.

In any case, Haircut One Hundred have reunited (not for the first time) as of 2023, with a lineup featuring four of the six members who played on Pelican West, including lead singer Nick Heyward, who wrote all of the songs on the album. The same year, a 4-CD/4-LP 40th anniversary edition of Pelican West was issued in Europe. Pelican West 40 contains more bonus tracks than you would think ever existed in relation to this album, including the non-album single "Nobody's Fool", a disc full of B-sides and remixes, another disc full of unfinished tracks, and a live disc with 14 songs performed at London's Hammersmith Odeon in Spring 1982. 11 of those live tracks were also issued on a vinyl LP on Record Store Day 2023. Haircut 100% Live! Hammersmith Odeon Spring 1982 was pressed in red vinyl and limited to 1,200 copies. Performing ten songs from Pelican West -- along with a mostly instrumental take on War's "Low Rider" -- the lads put on an agreeably enjoyable show for fans of the album, coming across best on the jazzy "Lemon Firebrigade" and the joyful pop tunes "Love Plus One" and "Fantastic Day". Notably, the three live tracks from the box set that were left off the RSD LP -- which were performed at a different Spring of '82 Hammersmith date -- offer zestier performances of "Favourite Shirts", "Calling Captain Autumn", and "Love Plus One" than the ones included on the LP.

It's been a well-kept secret, but Haircut One Hundred did record a second studio album. However, this album was not released in the U.S., and it did not feature original lead singer Nick Heyward. Heyward left the band shortly after the success of Pelican West, and soon found his own success as a solo artist -- particularly with his 1983 U.K. hit "Whistle Down The Wind", which was originally intended for Haircut One Hundred's sophomore album. In the wake of their former frontman and songwriter's solo success, the band's remaining five members recorded the ill-fated Paint And Paint album, with percussionist Marc Fox taking over lead vocal duties. The band was presented as a quartet for this album; Blair Cunningham, who played drums on both albums, left the band before this album was released, and was credited as an additional musician instead of a member of the band.

Paint And Paint is a far less colorful album than its title suggests. Listening to this album is much like watching a forgotten movie sequel that was made without the original's star and creative force; without Nick Heyward doing the singing or writing, Haircut One Hundred lost most of their personality and playfulness. Marc Fox's bland vocals are only part of the problem. The production (credited to the band and three different co-producers) is incohesive, the horns are lackluster, and the songwriting (mostly credited to the four billed band members) also lacks spark. Some songs, such as "40-40 Home" and the ballad "So Tired", are reminiscent of the previous album, and might have worked better if Heyward had sung them. "Prime Time" and "The Hidden Years" are propelled by decent funk and Caribbean rhythms, but Fox's vocals are so colorless that they almost disappear. "Benefit Of The Doubt" at least achieves danceability. The ballad "Where Do You Run To Now?" indeed comes across as a desperate attempt to duplicate the success of Heyward's solo album, and the closing track "Infatuation" ends the record on an even more saccharine note. This album is the sound of the New Romantic movement in its days of decline.

The commercial failure of Paint And Paint made it seem even less likely than its predecessor to be given an expanded reissue more than three decades after its time. But, lo and behold, the album was reissued in a 2-CD Deluxe Edition in the U.K. (Cherry Pop CRPOPD182) and Japan (Bad Feeling BF-58SS) in 2017. This edition's 19 bonus tracks (!) included two non-LP B-sides (the lightly likable "After It's All Been Said and Done" and the instrumental "Evil Smokestacking Baby"), four single remixes (which at least sound better-produced than their album counterparts), nine "development" mixes (many of which are instrumentals), and four tracks from a BBC recording session with deejay David "Kid" Jensen.

Haircut One Hundred "Paint And Paint" (Polydor HCLP 1 815 682-1) 1984

Track Listing:

1. Fish In A Bowl
2. Immaterial
3. So Tired
4. The Hidden Years
5. 40-40 Home
6. High Noon
7. Too Up Two Down
8. Benefit Of The Doubt
9. Prime Time
10. Where Do You Run To Now?
11. Infatuation

Haircut One Hundred "Haircut 100% Live! Hammersmith Odeon Spring 1982" (Demon Records DEMREC1095) 2023

Track Listing:

1. Low Rider
2. Baked Beans
3. Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl)
4. Calling Captain Autumn
5. Milk Film
6. Snow Girl
7. Lemon Firebrigade
8. Fantastic Day
9. Love's Got Me In Triangles
10. Love Plus One
11. Kingsize (You're My Little Steam Whistle)