Back in 2007, I finally lost faith in the British public in terms of the UK singles chart. The reason for this was Richard Hawley‘s ‘Tonight The Streets Are Ours‘, one of the most romantic pop singles ever released, and, for me, one of the greatest songs of that entire decade. Despite a decent amount of airplay, it limped to number 40, and thus my transition into the role of ‘curmudgeonly old sourpuss’ began.
It’s easy to forget just how consistent Hawley has been over the past twenty years. Now Then is a prudent reminder of the former Longpigs man’s journey from 21st century balladeer (some might say ‘crooner’ but I feel such a description would be doing him a disservice) through the ‘Blur meets shoegaze’ solicitations of 2012’s Standing At The Sky’s Edge, perhaps most notably on ‘She Brings The Sunlight‘ right through to the poignancy of 2019’s Further, which finds Hawley in reflective mood, especially on ‘My Little Treasures‘, a pretty, jangly number that found its genesis after a chance meeting with some friends of his father, who passed away in 2007. “Look at all these stars / Look at all these stars / Ever do believe it’s Jupiter and Mars.” I would have thought this was a terrible lyric if I’d seen it written down, but in the context of the song, it’s pretty damn heartwarming. And that’s probably the best way to describe Further, which might even be my personal favourite of all Hawley’s albums. That juxtaposition between gently affecting numbers and total rock-outs hits the spot every time.
We haven’t even approached the second disc yet on this 32 track CD retrospective, not that it matters, as the tracks here, rather than being chronologically organised, appear, instead, to have been set out in such a way that the record flows in the most coherent manner possible. Hawley himself compiled the collection along with Colin Elliot, and together they’ve done a fine job, my only – admittedly very minor – disgruntlement coming with the exclusion of debut solo single ‘Coming Home‘ from 2001.
Amongst the highlights here though, over the two discs, are the strikingly intense Dylan cover ‘Ballad Of A Thin Man‘ and the exquisitely gorgeous ‘Remorse Code‘, but there’s such a wealth of quality here that to single out anything would be somewhat churlish. The shimmering balladic guitar work of the 60s-like ‘I’m On Nights‘, the gritty realism of a love lost in ‘Don’t Stare At The Sun‘ or the majestic caterwauling of ‘Standing At The Sky’s Edge‘ – all of this points to the fact that Richard Hawley deserves that ‘national treasure’ status, and long may he continue in the role.