From Sheffield they came, the jewel in the eye of the Britpop storm.
Sean Adams 2012
1996 was the year that Britpop found sixth gear. It was ‘our time’ to do unto America what Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Nirvana had done to the UK for years: dominate the music scene. With hope in their sails, a raft of fresh-faced British acts packed their jam sandwiches and cagoules in readiness to rock America.
Whilst Oasis’ gritty What’s the Story (Morning Glory) battled Blur’s bubbly double-decker pop, the British A&R fraternity, with stadiums in mind, snapped up the Camden circuit’s finest. In the regions, Birmingham birthed the Mod-pop of Ocean Colour Scene and Liverpool offered up Space and Cast… and from Sheffield came Longpigs. The Steel City has a strong musical pedigree from The Human League, to Warp Records, to Pulp. Longpigs, with the latter band’s future guitarist Richard Hawley and ex-Cabaret Voltaire drummer Dee Boyle onboard, looked set to join that legacy.
In Crispin Hunt, the band had a singer whose falsetto could soar like David Bowie, but it was in his poetic turn of phrase that Longpigs set themselves apart from the pack. With hints of Dylan’s surrealism and Frank Black’s working-man-friendly Springsteen-like sentimentality, Hunt’s lyrics heaved his band’s songs to new heights. It was little wonder journalists were soon earmarking them as the new U2.
A jaunt on the road with Radiohead in the run up to recording this debut album perhaps led them away from the wedding reception knees-up side of Britpop. It was graceful ballads like On and On that saw the band achieve top 20 hit success, and Hunt’s tender torch songs touched on the personal rather than Thom Yorke’s world-weary grandstanding.
Sixteen years and several award-winning Richard Hawley solo albums later, during which time Hunt has penned hits for the likes of Ellie Goulding, Florence + The Machine and Newton Faulkner, The Sun Is Often Out still feels fresh and alive. Yes, some of the guitars do sound a little Seahorses-era John Squire, and Simon Stafford’s woozy bassline on Dozen Wicked Words wouldn’t sound out of place on The Verve’s A Northern Soul. But that can be forgiven of a band that can today be recognised as the jewel in the eye of the Britpop storm.