Saturday, 21 February 2015

The Housemartins 'Think For A Minute'

Chart Peak:
Charted at No. 47 on 30th September, had progressed nicely to reach No. 18 by 28th October. 'Think' is the group's second Top 20 success following 'Happy Hour'.
Sadly the last time we get to hear from the Housemartins on this blog, it being rather unfortunate that their brief span of success was in the days of only two Now albums per year. I don't have the toilet-shaped picture disc of this single, but I was lucky enough to obtain the original 12" for less than a pound, as pictured to the left.

If their debut album London 0 Hull 4 has a flaw, it's that a lot of the tracks do sound quite similar, and the original album version of 'Think For A Minute' (a title which I always thought should have an exclamation mark in it but doesn't) is a little bit Housemartins-by-numbers with its typical jangly guitars in the same tempo as many of their other songs. I love a jangly guitar, but so long into a running order of similar tracks it sells itself a bit short.

For single release we get an entirely new recording of the song, in an acoustic arrangement. Obviously slowing a song down can have mixed results, though the most common one is boredom. That's not the case here, thanks to the quiet intensity of the playing and Paul Heaton's outstanding vocal - there can't be many vocalists who've been so successful and yet so underappreciated. It concentrates attention on his more recognised talent as a lyricist, in which he's produced a susprisingly compelling song about apathy. A lovely trumpet solo from Guy Barker serves to preclude any monotony. And of course one of the reasons I've always loved the Housemartins is because they temper whatever messages they have with humour, as in the video for this song where drummer Hugh Whittaker mocks his minor role on the track by attempting to dominate the performance. Of course, the fact that he later served time for attacking somebody with an axe makes this slightly less funny now but we didn't know about that in 1986. For an indie band of the era they have some surprisingly good dance moves too, but then their interest in other music is also demonstrated by the affectionate parody B-side 'Rap Around The Clock'.

"Top pop stars or total willie noses?" they ask on the back cover of the 12". I'm voting for the former this time.

Also appearing on: Now 7, 9, 10
Available on: London 0 Hull 4 - Deluxe E Album Set

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