Bono loves them, so much so that he signed them to his (and U2’s) label Mother Records, but don’t hold that against them. Mother Records was also home to the likes of An Emotional Fish, Gil Scott-Heron, The Sugarcubes and Bjork. That’s right Bono signed Bjork, not once, but twice, or at least his people did anyway, before Mother dissolved in the early noughties.
Mother Records also signed Sheffield’s Longpigs, fronted by Crispin Hunt (vocals/guitar) and Richard Hawley (lead guitar) who went on to join a little Britpop band called Pulp that you may have heard of before embarking on a successful solo career in his own right.
The Longpigs constructed one of the finest albums of the Britpop era in the form of their 1996 debut ‘The Sun Is Often Out’. What is a long pig? I hear you ask. The band was named after the slang term for cooked human flesh. You and me, we taste like pork apparently, hence the term long pig. As Brett Anderson would say, “We are the pigs we are the swine.” Right, now that that’s cleared up, are you feeling peckish? No? Good, because Longpigs are for listening to, not munching upon. You at the back, yes, you, put the salt cellar down.
While the rest of Britain was trying to outdo each other with their latest composition of four-fingered G and D chords; Hunt and Hawley offered an antidote of power-chords, riffs, high-pitched wails of love, anger and lust, and shouts of remorse, more akin to ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish’ with the turbo switch engaged, than Cool Britannia.
‘The Sun Is Often Out’ skipped the pompous "mad for it" shenanigans that propagated the Labour government clockwork orange maxim that we could be heroes forever; instead mining the cracks in modern humanity for inspiration. Depression, drug abuse, immorality, mortality, sexual inadequacy, even God wasn’t safe from Crispin Hunt’s love, affection and disdain “I am leaving the light of baby Jesus far behind, for one with history leaking from her eyes.”
Despite the underlying seediness, the Longpigs still manage to provide more than their fair share of sing-along moments in the likes of Far, She Said and Jesus Christ, while Elvis allowed both Hunt and Hawley to embrace their wilder sides. Whether it’s the simple ballad folk of On and On or the hepped up attack of Happy Again or the slow cascade of Sleep; Hawley’s guitar parts are perfectly measured, his solos, in particular, are quite impressive. Perhaps if things had worked out differently for the Longpigs, Richard Hawley would be regarded as one of the great Britpop guitar-slingers with a sideline in rockabilly.
What happened next then? Despite containing some quality songs such as The Frank Sonata, In The Snow and Dance Baby Dance, their 1999 follow-up ‘Mobile Home’ proved too fractured and experimental, with too many songs simply cramming too many ideas into too little space, making for a claustrophobic, unwieldy and erratic listen.
Fans weren’t prepared for the sonic leap from guitar-led Britpop to an album that had more in common with the soundscapes of Sneaker Pimps and Portishead with lyrics such as “Lying in the sun like a fat dog with you is worth cancer. The few pleasures, how white my clean ass could be. There is not yet a neat media label to describe you and me and this age. Well, fuck them. And on the streets there's an advert, real people pickled to the bone by the vultures of culture, golf, hold on to yourself,” Need we say any more?
Longpigs split soon after ‘Mobile Home’ lurched into being. Richard Hawley shacked up with Jarvis Cocker in Pulp, before going solo with the kind of success nobody could’ve predicted. Meanwhile Crispin Hunt went on to pen songs for the likes of Florence and the Machine and Jack Bugg and Ellie Goulding; but not before drummer Dee Boyle, smashed a glass in his face following his dismissal from the band. Never disagree with people that hit things for a living folks.