If this album came accompanied by one of Pete Frame’s iconic Rock Family Trees, you would be looking at lines that wound their way through bands such as The Lilac Time and TV Eye, The Black Bombers and Duran Duran and musicians such as Dave Kusworth, Twist and Nikki Sudden. And at the heart of it would be Stephen Duffy.
For two years from ’79, The Hawks blazed a live trail through the heart of the Birmingham post-punk scene and were adored by fans, they recorded one, highly collectable single, Words of Hope, failed to get signed and individually moved on to sonic pastures new.
It was not until 2019 that a conversation between Dave Kusworth and Stephen Duffy set in motion the notion of sprucing up, remastering, repairing and releasing these 40-year-old cassettes to the wider public, something that Kusworth would sadly not live long enough to see come to fruition.
But for the rest of us, Obviously 5 Believers is a fantastic musical insight into a whole core movement within a scene that never seemed to get the recognition it deserved. There is a strange mixing of worlds to be found here, between the sleazy blues-infused sound that would be an important part of Kusworth’s sonic DNA going forward and the more delicate indie-pop that would be a signature sound on Duffy’s sonic dance card.
As All The Sad Young Men both jangles and grooves, you can hear both Kusworth scuzzy blues-infused future and Duffy’s more delicate moves beckoning, sadly from opposite directions, but there is a wonderful suggestion here that these two musicians are essentially two sides of the same sonic coin. Again, with Aztec Moon it is the blend of Duffy’s delicate vocals and chiming sonics under-pinned by the more scowling and scurrilous guitars which creates the dynamic and makes you think of what might have been had The Hawks run a longer run. Music history is full of such what ifs. Tracks such as Big Store throw in some curling, early Cult riffs, Bullfighter is a buoyant and bopping, poised pop piece and Serenade spits and spatters guitars salvoes in all directions.
Okay it’s a bit ragged, something that Dave Kusworth seemed okay with given the nature of the bands that followed but which Duffy polished to perfection as he wandered a more pop route. But then again it is a bunch of nineteen years olds taking their early steps, steps that would lead to some great albums, amazing shows and one of my favourite singles of all time. Not many people can say that of their early work.
It’s a great album, certainly one for the musical archaeologists, Birmingham music fans of a certain age and record completists. But, more than that, even when separated from its historical significance, it is an album packed with great songs, cool melodies and infectious sing-alongs, and in the long run, that is perhaps all that really matters.