Haircut One Hundred
Paint And Paint
Carrying on without your lead singer–it’s a difficult task for any band, but to carry on without your lead singer after he leaves your band at the height of its popularity? That’s even more of a seemingly impossible feat. While a lead singer transplant has been done successfully—Van Halen, Toto, and Mercury Rev are only a few that come to mind—they’re the exception, not the rule. Such was the dilemma facing British New Wave pop band Haircut One Hundred in 1983, when frontman Nick Heyward left to pursue a solo career, not long after the release of their seminal debut album, Pelican West. The group decided to carry on, and their second—and so far final—album Paint And Paint was the result.
Instead of replacing Heyward with an outside vocalist, percussionist Marc Fox switched to vocals. While it appeared that the band may have seemingly been heavily invested in Heyward, the truth was his contributions were often matched by the rest of the band, making for a much more collaborative process. Thus, the songs on Paint And Paint don’t sound radically different from the songs found on their debut album. Furthermore, Fox is a fantastic singer; though he doesn’t possess Heyward’s soft, gentle tones, he’s still quite easy on the ears, especially on great numbers like the lush “Infatuation,” the upbeat “40-40 Home,” and the Afro-Cuban groove of “High Noon.” Yet no matter how good their songs happened to be, one fact remained: the music world equated Haircut One Hundred with Nick Heyward. Thus, Paint And Paint disappeared without a trace, and the band, dejected, would quietly call it a day.
It’s a shame, really. That’s not to say Paint And Paint is a lost masterpiece; if anything, it’s rather atypical British New Wave pop, with a tinge of Soul. There’s no guarantee that Paint And Paint would have been successful with Heyward; so many bands during this time would likewise release wonderful follow-up albums that went unheard. Perhaps they should have changed their name. Perhaps—and this is a radical idea—they should have just released the album as an instrumental record. Think that’s crazy? The second disc offered in the collection does just that, presenting the record in a “production mode,” and many of these songs radiate and shine without the distractions of a lead singer.
Ah, but that’s wishful thinking; no label would have allowed that to happen. And so it was that Haircut One Hundred met the challenge ahead of them, did the best they could, and even though it didn’t work out, they at least gave it a chance. That’s the ultimate story of Paint And Paint: perseverance is worth the effort. There’s a happy story to their story, though; a few years back, Heyward and the band worked out their differences, and reformed, performing their classic Pelican West, and promising new material. Though nothing has appeared, at least one can say that Paint And Paint may not be the final word on this beautiful but damned pop group.