Ask most music fans who they associate with the early days of Kitchenware Records and the first name they would come up with must surely be Prefab Sprout. Keener students may offer The Kane Gang, Fatima Mansions or Martin Stephenson And The Daintees. Digging further through the archives one might also mention Hug; a promising indie rock outfit hailing from Newcastle whose brief career yielded an album and a few EPs in the early 1990’s. The band recently reconvened after digging up some of their old demos and polishing them off for the public to hear.
Despite this album consisting of three new tracks and five live versions, all the songs exhibit a satisfyingly fleshy sound with thick rhythms and Gemma Wilson Pitt’s strident, throaty vocals to the fore. As has been mentioned, the new songs were old demos re-worked but they possess the rawness and intimacy of a live gig in a local arena. There’s no room for layers of abstract electronica here, just gritty guitars and an earthy production. Indeed, apart from the audience interaction there isn’t a whole load of difference between the live versions of ‘Clay’ and its studio counterpart and there’s certainly not a bad thing.
The squalling guitars and muscular bass on ‘Kingdom Come’ and ‘Kaleid’ will be familiar to followers of early 1990’s bands such as New FADs or Adorable, whilst ‘Dark Eden’ is the best showcase for Wilson Pitt’s controlled wailing. ‘Walk On Fire’ was better known as ‘Firebrands’, their best-known song and it has stood the test of time well but but the unerringly melodic ‘Meltdown’ could have easily become another anthem for them.
Everything about ‘Clay’ suggests Hug were and still are a very decent band. Perhaps the lack of a truly distinctive sound meant they never sat at the high table at either Kitchenware Records or with the indie rock fraternity but like a lower league football team, they deserve their moment in the sun for a spirited and passionate performance.