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Pelican West Plus

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Album Review

If Orange Juice famously wanted to sound like a combination of Chic and the Velvet Underground, then Haircut 100 must have wanted to sound like a combination of Orange Juice and Chic. Heavy on the Juice. On their debut and only album with band founder Nick Heyward, Pelican West, the group display all the skittery beats, deep-voiced crooning, and pop smarts of OJ, while adding more funk and saxophone than Edwyn Collins and co. probably ever imagined. That Haircut 100 scored a bigger hit than the band they so clearly idolized must have rubbed the lads in Orange Juice the worst way, but it's clear from even one listen through Pelican West that Haircut 100 were more than just mere copycats. "Love Plus One" is that aforementioned mega hit and it deserved to be a timeless classic. Nick Heyward knew how to write pop hooks and the band fills it in with brilliant subtlety. There are siblings to that song scattered across the record. "Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl)," "Marine Boy," and the ecstatic "Fantastic Day" all have wonderfully snappy melodies and huge choruses, "Milk Film," "Surprise Me Again," and "Snow Girl" have a refined pop sound that skews a little less gleeful and a little more melancholy. Sure, they are all prone to sax breakdowns and horn section crescendos that sound like Chicago happened by the studio, but the bulk of the album is first-rate '80s sophisti-pop. The few tracks that cast aside the traditional song structure and jump over to the Chic side of the equation are fun, though very much of their time. "Love's Got Me in Triangles" and "Calling Captain Autumn" are both quite British, with a sort of awkward kind of funk almost quaint in its unfunkiness. Heyward's attempts at rapping on the latter achieve beat poet-meets-Captain Sensible levels of uncoolness that circle back around to coolness in the end somehow. The entire record is a little like that. From their corny outfits to their lighter-than-air sound, Haircut 100 were never going to be dangerous or sexy. The best they could hope for was escapist, but never mindless fun and on Pelican West they bury their arrows dead center in the middle of that target. [Cherry Pop's 2015 Deluxe Edition of the album adds four bonus tracks on the first disc, including single B-sides and the post-album release "Nobody's Fool," which pointed to a guitar-heavy, sax-solo-free future the group never saw. The second disc is made up of 12" versions of album tracks, extended versions, and a live recording of "Fantastic Day." Of chief interest is the 12" version of "Love Plus One," because it's the big hit and it's fun to hear them stretching it out a little. The rest of the disc is also fun and it's a nice addition to the classic album with which it's paired.]

Biography

Formed: 1980 in Beckenham, England

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '80s, '00s

Combining light funk with frothy pop, Haircut 100 was one of the cleanest and most accessible new wave groups. Formed in 1980, the British band's core members were vocalist Nick Heyward, bassist Les Nemes, and guitarist Graham Jones; the following year, drummer Memphis Blair Cunningham, saxophonist Phil Smith, and percussionist Mark Fox joined the group. Once the band was signed to Arista Records, they were put under the direction of producer Bob Sargeant, who helped them polish their stylish pop....
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Pelican West Plus, Haircut 100
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