One of 1982’s bright new chart groups, the six energetic young Londoners of Haircut One Hundred created a crisp mixture of melodic pop and African-American and Latin rhythms, seasoned with horns and an occasional dash of jazz. Haircut’s funk-oriented songs tend to be a bit samey (placing three of them — “Favourite Shirts,” “Lemon Firebrigade” and “Marine Boy” — together on the American version of Pelican West doesn’t help); their pop songs are more successful. “Love Plus One” and “Fantastic Day” are delightful, near-perfect confections with hooks that will snare even the tone deaf; “Snow Girl” and “Surprise Me Again” run a close second.
Following leader/singer Nick Heyward’s departure for a solo career, Haircut promoted percussionist Mark Fox to frontman and recorded the agreeably bland Paint and Paint, which reprises Pelican West‘s chirpy hummability but not its flashes of ironic wit. The group eventually dissolved, and drummer Blair Cunningham went on to stints with the Pretenders and Echo and the Bunnymen.
Heyward, meanwhile, launched his solo career with the pristinely produced (credit Geoff Emerick) North of a Miracle, an awesomely pleasant outing that’s everything a disposable pop record should be. Filled with layered vocals (“Whistle Down the Wind” sounds remarkably like the Association) and peppy music played by a large collection of studio hands (including Steve Nieve), the album finds Heyward gracefully adopting a more adult persona with no loss in tunefulness.
But there’s a line between disposable and useless, and Heyward’s technically proficient but emotionally empty I Love You Avenue crosses it. With the songs divided into brassy, insubstantial dance-pop and sappy singer-songwriterism, this self-produced disc is sorely lacking in both character and fun.