IN SOME WAYS THE NORTHERN RADIOHEAD (THAT IS, THE ANTHEMIC INDIE-ROCK RADIOHEAD OF THE BENDS), LONGPIGS WERE MISREPRESENTED AS ‘BRITPOP’ BY AN INDUSTRY MAKING HAY WHILE THE SUN SHONE.
A new two-disc retrospective – ON AND ON (THE ANTHOLOGY), released by careful curators 3 Loop – reaffirms that the Sheffield band was, in fact, several shades of the darkness to much of its purported scene’s primary colour brouhaha.
Not for Longpigs seas of cheerfully skyward fists at Knebworth or Mile End – though some of the songs seem built for that scale. Not for Longpigs ‘on message’ cartoon personas plastered across the music papers and TFI television – though, for a brief spell, frontman and serial bad-behaver Crispin Hunt would feature.
If it’s at all fair to draw comparison between Longpigs and Sheffield contemporaries Pulp, it’s that both bands stalked insider territory from an outsider position. Jarvis Cocker’s was a cleverly calibrated intellectual disco picking at the scabs of steel city bedsits, bingo and babymaking – but Longpigs was a ballsy garage-gang noise putting windows through on the way home and waking soaked in self-loathing the next lunchtime.
SHE SAID and LOST MYSELF are waist-deep swamp thrashes dunking The Pixies’ WHERE IS MY MIND? and Radiohead’s JUST. The strongest moments here, both roughly template the band’s default angry/loud mode – but there is also room for reflection and regret. As during ON AND ON, though, they are usually twisted into an intense and peculiarly beautiful awkwardness.
Longpigs’ underachieving second – and final – album, 1999’s MOBILE HOME (which saw jobbing guitarist Richard Hawley creep into the writing credits for the first time) is reasonably well represented in this collection of singles, album tracks, choice b-sides and previously unreleased BBC radio sessions. But it’s that defining earlier material, from around the time of 1996 debut THE SUN IS OFTEN OUT, which remains the most startling.