The Housemartins

Happy Hour

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Perhaps reflecting how well their politically charged brand of jangly Brit-pop has aged compared to their contemporaries, Happy Hour: The Collection is the fourth compilation from "the fourth best band in Hull" since their split in 1988. With just two studio albums to choose from, it's not surprising that this 20-track compilation doesn't offer anything new, sharing 15 of its tracks with their defining hits package, Now That's What I Call Quite Good!, nine from 2004's The Best Of, and six of the seven compositions featured on 2007's joint Beautiful South retrospective, Soup. But for those only familiar with their chart-topping a cappella cover version of the Isley Brothers' "Caravan of Love," and the radio-friendly diatribe against corporate culture, "Happy Hour," this budget Spectrum release is as good a place to start as any. Sharing the bill equally, their 1986 first album, London 0 Hull 4, is represented by seven songs, including their melancholic debut single, "Flag Day," gospel ballad "Lean on Me" and the jaunty Smiths-esque "We're Not Deep," as is 1987 follow-up, The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death, including the music hall instrumental "Pirate Aggro," the Motown-tinged "Bow Down," and the gentle folk number "Build," a hint at the direction Heaton and Rotheray were later to pursue with the Beautiful South. Elsewhere, the future Fatboy Slim's signature sound is also prevalent on the clattering breakbeats, James Bond samples, and anthemic piano chords of "Rap Around the Clock" (a rarity featured on the 2009 deluxe edition of their debut), while five cuts are selected from Now That's What I Call Quite Good!, including a sparse acoustic rendition of Carole King's "You've Got a Friend," and Think for a Minute B-side, "I Smell Winter." A chance to hear Heaton and Norman Cook before middle-aged curmudgeon and globe-conquering superstar DJ sets became their forte, Happy Hour: The Collection is a value-for-money overview which provides pretty much everything you need to know about one of Britain's most underrated '80s indie pop bands.

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