Mercury - 2004 - 45 minutes

Four years and two albums is not a lot to build a greatest hits collection from, but that's exactly what you get with 'The Best Of The Housemartins', and it's a testament to how good they were.

Every song is memorable, from the slightly manic feel of 'Happy Hour' and 'Anxious' to the gospel-like 'Caravan of Love' and 'I'll Be Your Shelter'. In fact, listening to the album reminds you of the videos, which is quite an achievement after twenty years.

The songs are catchy and easy to sing along to, but they are often accompanied by a message. 'Hopelessly Devoted to Them' is a wonderfully cynical portrait of the system under which many people work, while 'Build' concerns itself with the problems of rapid urbanisation.

The Housemartins sang about topical issues, but their musical style ensured their success. The tracks are firmly rooted in the pop genre, with elements of gospel and rock thrown in. The only downside is that it all came to an end so soon.

While ex-Housemartins Paul Heaton and Norman Cook have had great success since the group split neither The Beautiful South nor Fat Boy Slim can out do their original band for talent and originality. 'The Best Of The Housemartins' is excellent, what all greatest hits compilations should be.

Katie Moten

Tracklisting:  Happy Hour - Five Get Over Excited - Caravan of Love - Think for a Minute - Me and the Farmer - Flag Day - Sheep - Build - There is Always Something There to Remind Me - Anxious - Hopelessly Devoted to Them - I Smell Winter - The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death - I'll Be Your Shelter (Just Like a Shelter)