Tag: Bronski Beat (Page 1 of 2)

The Electronic Legacy of GREATEST HITS

Despite his lukewarm review of NEW ORDER’s ‘Power, Corruption & Lies’ for ‘Smash Hits’, as a fan of their singles, Neil Tennant wrote: “I’m still looking forward to their ‘Greatest Hits’”.

Not appreciating a greatest hits of an artist who you admire is the ultimate in fan snobbery; that they are in a position of being able to release one is often a symbol of wider acclaim and success.

Despite what those too cool for school hipster types would have you believe, when you are 15 years old with just £4 in your hand, if you are choosing a record of an artist who you only know the singles of, you tend to opt for a compilation where possible, that is a fact.

The greatest hits compilation has its place in documenting the immediate appeal of an artist. It can often be the only release that most casual listeners need, especially if the albums were disappointing and featured all the wrong versions of their best songs as was the case with FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD.

But then, duos like PET SHOP BOYS and ERASURE were just supreme in the singular format while conversely, there are those like HEAVEN 17 and VISAGE whose best work can be found on their first two albums. However, bands such as NEW ORDER could often be better represented by their singles rather than their albums, as many of them were standalone releases that were not included on their long players which were often quite different in musical style.

Now while something as “commercial” as releasing a greatest hits would have been an anathema to NEW ORDER’s label Factory Records in 1983, flush with unexpected success and cash, Tony Wilson wanted to play their singles using the CD player that came with his brand new Jaguar car.

Thus, the ‘Substance’ compilation was born in 1987; issued in a variety of formats including double vinyl, cassette, DAT and CD, the latter three variants made use of the extra playing time available and included bonuses such as B-sides, tracks only previously issued in Belgium, instrumental versions and those rarely essential dub experiments.

Perhaps not unsurprisingly despite its flaws with re-recordings, edits and omissions, ‘Substance’ has gone on to sell around twelve million copies worldwide and was many fans’ entry point into NEW ORDER.

A good compilation does the job of attracting new fans while providing something extra for long standing fans and completists where possible. New versions or up-to-the-minute remixes of established standards were the fashion for a period but thankfully, this marketing strategy is today generally considered passé and previously unreleased songs are now considered the main draw.

But ultimately, what makes a great greatest hits package is a seamless listening experience, although this is something which even the best acts don’t always get right despite the quality of their best output.

So The Electricity Club takes a personal look at the electronic legacy of greatest hits via twenty notable artist compilation albums, each with valid reasons for their inclusion, presented in yearly and then alphabetical order within. And as one great Northern English philosopher once wrote: “some are here and some are missing…”


ULTRAVOX The Collection (1984)

At the time of release, ‘The Collection’ was novel. Not only did it feature all thirteen Midge Ure-fronted ULTRAVOX singles to date, but in ‘Love’s Great Adventure’, it also included a brand new one too. Yes, 2009’s ‘The Very Best Of’ features four more tracks including the cancelled 1984 single ‘White China’, but honestly who really needs the singles from ‘U-Vox’? ‘The Collection’ was a perfect package that could be played from start to finish, from ‘Dancing With Tears in My Eyes’ to ‘Lament’ via ‘Vienna’.

‘The Collection’ was released by Chrysalis Records

http://www.ultravox.org.uk/


DEPECHE MODE The Singles 81-85 (1985)

The ideal DEPECHE MODE greatest hits package would be CD1 of ‘The Singles 86-98’ which ends with the ‘Violator’ 45s coupled with the innocent synthpop period gathered on ‘The Singles 81-85’. But as that doesn’t exist, the very first DM singles compilation wins over thanks to its inclusion of candid photos from the band’s history and some amusing negative review quotes, highlighting that once upon a time, DEPECHE MODE actually had a sense of humour. Oh! Those were the days!

‘The Singles 81-85’ was released by Mute Records

http://www.depechemode.com/


GARY NUMAN Exhibition (1987)

The first compilation ‘New Man Numan’ was a 1982 singles collection that sold poorly as his star turn was on the wane. But by 1987, there was renewed interest in trailblazing exploits of Gary Numan; the ‘Exhibition’ double CD package featured not only his singles up to 1983 but choice album tracks from his imperial Beggars Banquet phase like ‘Metal’ and ‘Remind Me To Smile’ which should have been singles plus rarities like ‘On Broadway’ and B-sides such as ‘Do You Need The Service?’.

‘Exhibition’ was released by Beggars Banquet

http://garynuman.com/


CHINA CRISIS Collection (1990)

CHINA CRISIS had their fourteen track ‘Collection’ of primarily singles released in a wonderful limited edition double CD package with fourteen of their B-sides. Gary Daly and Eddie Lundon were better than their four Top20 hits suggested, with songs like ‘African & White’ and ‘Arizona Sky’ in particular deserving of much higher chart placings. Add in B-sides like ‘No Ordinary Lover’, ‘A Golden Handshake For Every Daughter’ and ‘Dockland’, and you have a near perfect document of their career.

‘Collection’ was released by Virgin Records

https://www.facebook.com/chinacrisisofficial


JIMMY SOMERVILLE The Singles Collection (1990)

The diminutive Glaswegian never stuck around in his bands for long but he had one of the most recognisable voices in pop, thanks to in his glorious falsetto. So what better than compiling his BRONSKI BEAT and COMMUNARDS singles alongside his solo work? From the poignant commentary on gay rights in songs like ‘Smalltown Boy’ and ‘Why?’ to the HI-NRG covers of disco standards ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’, ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’ and ‘Mighty Real’, this was a fine collection.

‘The Singles Collection’was released by London Records

https://www.jimmysomerville.co.uk/


TALK TALK Natural History (1990)

After 1988’s financially disastrous ‘Spirit Of Eden’, EMI were keen to recoup their investment on the now departed TALK TALK and what better than with a compilation. While primarily based around their hit singles, ‘Natural History’ actually pulled off an accidental masterstroke by including the full-length album versions of songs like ‘Such A Shame’ and ‘Living In Another World’ which had sounded terrible as single edits. This all made for a better listening experience for those new to Mark Hollis and friends.

‘Natural History’ was released by EMI Records

https://spiritoftalktalk.com/


PET SHOP BOYS Discography (1991)

‘Discography’ gathered all of PET SHOP BOYS singles during what Neil Tennant has always describe as their imperial phase and could rightly be called one of the best greatest hits albums ever. Featuring four UK No1s, there were others like ‘Left To My Own Devices’, Being Boring’ and the Dusty Springfield duet ‘What Have I Done To Deserve This? that were equally as worthy. Later compilations like ‘PopArt’ mighty have ‘Go West’ and more, but ‘Discography’ captures the duo at their most consistent best.

‘Discography’ was released by EMI Records

https://www.petshopboys.co.uk/


ERASURE Pop! The First 20 Hits (1992)

Coming not long after ‘Discography’, ‘Pop! The First 20 Hits’ saw ERASURE take on PET SHOP BOYS at their own game. Andy Bell and Vince Clarke may have only had three less UK No1s than Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe but that’s a bit like saying Nigel Mansell wasn’t a good as Nelson Piquet on stats alone. ERASURE have always been a better singles act than they are an album one, but while a second volume was added in 2009, this initial volume is the more essential purchase.

‘Pop! The First 20 Hits’ was released by Mute Records

https://www.erasureinfo.com/


KRAFTWERK The Model (1992)

Los Angeles goth industrial specialists Cleopatra Records pulled off a major coup by licencing the music of KRAFTWERK from their then-US label Capitol Records for a compilation album. Covering the period 1975-1978, the main point of interest for Kling Klang enthusiasts was the first time on CD release of ‘Radio-Activity’, ‘Trans Europe Express’, ‘The Robots’ and ‘Neon Lights’ in their single edits! ‘The Model’ retrospective was a good introduction to KRAFTWERK for the more cautious consumer.

‘The Model’ was released by Cleopatra Records

http://www.kraftwerk.com/


FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD Bang!… (1993)

Liverpool’s FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD are probably the epitome of hype over substance, but in their name came some magnificent ground-breaking singles. For a band who released only two albums, they have been documented more than most already with six greatest hits collections and a plethora of remix packages. The very first one ‘Bang!…’ was undoubtedly the best, serving the Frankie phenomenon in mostly bite size single edit portions with album highlights and perfect for the casual but interested observer.

‘Bang!…’ was released by Warner Music

http://www.ztt.com/artists/frankie_goes_to_hollywood.html


JOHN FOXX Modern Art (2001)

The first John Foxx compilation ‘Assembly’ in 1992 while welcome, suffered from being selected by the man himself, as artists are not often the best judges of their own work. Much better and more comprehensive was ‘Modern Art’ which gathered all his singles into one place in their correct versions, while also adding a remastered version of the ‘Smash Hits’ flexi-disc ‘My Face’ as a bonus for Foxx aficionados as well as new material from ‘The Pleasures Of Electricity’.

‘Modern Art’ was released by Music Club

http://www.metamatic.com/


SIMPLE MINDS Early Gold (2003)

Before Jim Kerr hectored audiences to show them his hands, SIMPLE MINDS were one of the best art rock bands in the UK, swathed in Eurocentric synths and rhythms. ‘Early Gold’ satisfied those who always felt the Glaswegians lost it after ‘New Gold Dream’ by including The Blitz Club anthem ‘Changeling’, the Moroderesque ‘I Travel’ and the glory of ‘Someone Somewhere in Summertime’. However, the magnificent ‘Theme For Great Cities’ is missing but you can’t have it all…

‘Early Gold’ was released by Virgin Records

https://www.simpleminds.com/


NEW ORDER Singles (2005)

With its hotch-potch of wrong mixes and ordering, the first edition of ‘Singles’ is historically incorrect. But unlike ‘Substance’, it has the correct takes of ‘Ceremony’ and ‘Temptation’. Yes, there’s the album cut of ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ and an edited B-side version of 1963 as well, BUT as a listening experience, CD1 of ‘Singles’ does a better job of capturing NEW ORDER up to the end of 1987. ‘Blue Monday’ remains intact, and while the edit of ‘Thieves Like Us’ is annoying, ‘Confusion’ is more tolerable in abridged form.

‘Singles’ was released by London Records

http://www.neworder.com/


JAPAN The Very Best Of (2006)

First up, there is no ideal JAPAN compilation. But ‘The Very Best Of’ wins over because it was the only one that had the key Ariola Hansa era singles ‘Life In Tokyo’, ‘I Second That Emotion’ and ‘Quiet Life’ alongside the Virgin period that produced ‘Ghosts’ and ‘Nightporter’. However, the clumsy 1980 early fade of ‘Quiet Life’ was included rather than the sharper 1981 hit single edit. Also, were two versions of ‘Ghosts’ necessary when ‘Swing’ could have been dropped in? It all spoilt what potential this compendium had.

‘The Very Best Of’ was released by Virgin Records

http://www.nightporter.co.uk/


DURAN DURAN The Singles 81-85 (2009)

DURAN DURAN were described by The Guardian in 2015 as “an electronic band with a heavy rock guitarist bolted on” and that era of the classic Le Bon / Rhodes / Taylor / Taylor / Taylor line-up is captured in this 3CD package largely firing on all cylinders. Originally issued in 2003 as a lavish 13CD boxed set and featuring all their singles, extended versions and B-sides from that period, ‘The Singles 81-85’ is superior to the both the preceding ‘Decade’ and ‘Greatest’ compendiums.

‘The Singles 81-85’ was released by EMI Records

http://www.duranduran.com/


LADYTRON Best Of 00-10 (2011)

“They only want you when you’re seventeen” sang LADYTRON on their single satirising modern day audition culture and perhaps not coincidently, their ‘Best Of 00–10’ featured that number of tracks. A fine introduction to the quartet via their more immediate songs like ‘Discotraxx’, ‘Playgirl’, ‘Runaway’ and the mighty ‘Destroy Everything You Touch’. Extra points were awarded for the right wing baiting revisionist cover of Nazi folkies DEATH IN JUNE’s ‘Little Black Angel’ in a defiant act of artistic and ideological subversion.

‘Best of 00-10’ was released by Nettwerk Records

http://www.ladytron.com/


CAMOUFLAGE The Singles (2014)

Often seen as Germany’s answer to DEPECHE MODE, CAMOUFLAGE added in elements of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA and have a marvellous back catalogue that is well worth investigating. ‘The Singles’ is a fine introduction, containing their signature song ‘The Great Commandment’ as well as ‘Stranger’s Thoughts’, ‘Love Is A Shield’, ‘Suspicious Love’, ‘Me & You’ plus a great cover of Moon Martin’s ‘Bad News’. With liner notes by The Electricity Club, what more could you want? 😉

‘The Singles’ was released by Polydor Records

http://www.camouflage-music.com/en/News


JEAN MICHEL JARRE Essential Recollection (2015)

Jean-Michel Jarre has several greatest hits albums but they all have been frustrating listens. This has largely been due to his synthesizer symphonies not being suited to sub-three minute edits, a flaw heavily exposed on the ‘Images’ compilation. But ‘Essential Recollection’ collected the French Maestro’s most accessible moments with sympathetic fades that captured the essence of his electronic wizardry. However, 2000’s ‘The Bells’ was odd inclusion in a collection that focussed on his earlier imperial phase.

‘Essential Recollection’ was released by Sony Music

https://jeanmicheljarre.com/


SOFT CELL Keychains & Snowstorms – The Singles (2018)

No-one expected Marc Almond and Dave Ball to reunite as SOFT CELL for a final show in 2018, but a bigger surprise was a brand new single ‘Northern Lights’ b/w ‘Guilty (Cos I Say You Are)’. Both tracks were included on a new singles compilation which reminded people that SOFT CELL had five UK Top5 singles in just over thirteen months between 1981 and 1982. However, a minus mark gets awarded for using the inferior album mix of ‘Tainted Love’ instead of the chart topping single version!

‘Keychains & Snowstorms – The Singles’ was released by Universal Music

https://www.softcell.co.uk/


OMD Souvenir (2019)

As with JAPAN, there is no perfect OMD compilation. The brand has had some quite different phases, so means different things to different people. ‘The Best Of’ is still their biggest selling album but the comprehensive ‘Souvenir’ gathers all their singles, from the exemplarly ‘Messages’, ‘Enola Gay’ and ‘Maid Of Orleans’ to the more recent ‘Dresden’ and ‘Don’t Go’. But while there’s duffers like ‘Stand Above Me’ and ‘If You Want It’, maybe it’s the ideal time to put those CD programmers and playlists to work!

‘Souvenir’ was released by Virgin Records

http://www.omd.uk.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
25th July 2020, updated 27th July 2020

Ten Years Of TEC: 30 TRACKS THAT SHAPED THE ELECTRICITY CLUB

So how did The Electricity Club arrive at its discerning musical ethos?

It probably all began with a very liberal and Bohemian junior school teacher named Miss Nielsen who played KRAFTWERK’s ‘Autobahn’, PINK FLOYD’s ‘Echoes’ and the soundtrack of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ to the class, with the unusual sound of all three providing an otherworldly, yet captivating listen.

Later on, various parts of the 22 minute ‘Autobahn’ track appeared on the end credits of BBC children’s drama ‘Out Of Bounds’ and opened ‘Newsround Extra’, but 1977 was to become the true Year Zero in electronic pop. With ‘Oxygène’, ‘Sound & Vision’, ‘Magic Fly’ and ‘I Feel Love’ all hitting the UK Top 3 within months of each other, this was effectively the beginning of synths designing the future.

To celebrate the 10th birthday of the site, here is a very personal list of 30 tracks that shaped The Electricity Club. These are primarily songs that solidified and expanded the interest in synth or later provided hope in the face of real music snobbery and the return of the guitar in the wake of Britpop.

There will be grumbles that the likes of YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA, HEAVEN 17, YAZOO, DURAN DURAN, TALK TALK, PROPAGANDA, CLIENT, RÖYKSOPP and others are not featured, and certainly if this list was a 40, they would all be included. But this list is an impulsive snapshot of The Electricity Club’s own journey in music, as opposed to being a history of electronic pop or a best of.

What? No industrial, acid house, techno or dubstep you ask? Well, that’s because The Electricity Club disliked the majority of it. While this is not always the case, the site has generally about synthpop ie pop music using synthesizers, as can be seen from this rather esteemed electronic roll of honour 😉

This is the history that the too cool for school media, who think everything jumped from KRAFTWERK to Detroit Techno in one fell swoop, don’t like to mention…

With a restriction of one track per artist moniker and presented in yearly and then alphabetical order featuring music from before the site came into being, here is why The Electricity Club is how it is…


JEAN-MICHEL JARRE Oxygène (1976)

For many including Jean-Michel Jarre, ‘Popcorn’ for their first experience of a synthpop hit and he released his own version under the moniker of THE POPCORN ORCHESTRA in 1972. But while working on his first proper full length electronic album in 1976, Jarre adapted a melodic phrase from the late Gershon Kingsley’s composition as the main theme of what was to become the project’s lead single. That composition was ‘Oxygène IV’ and the rest is history.

Available on the album ‘Oxygène’ via Sony Music

https://jeanmicheljarre.com/


DAVID BOWIE Sound & Vision (1977)

Exploring a “whole new school of pretension” with his new creative muse Brian Eno, ‘Sound & Vision’ saw David Bowie capture a tense European aesthetic. Utilising an uplifting rhythm guitar hook and an ARP Solina string machine, the most distinctive feature was the pitch shifted percussion, produced by Tony Visconti feeding the snare drum though an Eventide H910 Harmonizer. The half instrumental track was a taster of the approach that was to come with the half instrumental parent album ‘Low’.

Available on the album ‘Low’ via EMI Music

https://www.davidbowie.com/


SPACE Magic Fly (1977)

SPACE was the brainchild of Didier Marouani who went under the pseudonym of Ecama and formed the collective in 1977 with Roland Romanelli and Jannick Top. Together with compatriot Jean-Michel Jarre and a certain Giorgio Moroder also in the charts, the space disco of the iconic ‘Magic Fly’ heralded the start of a new European electronic sound within the mainstream. With its catchy melody and lush accessible futurism, ‘Magic Fly’ sold millions all over the world.

Available on the album ‘Magic Fly’ via Virgin France

https://marouani.space/


DONNA SUMMER I Feel Love (1977)

Working with Donna Summer on an album called ‘I Remember Yesterday’, producer Giorgio Moroder wanted to feature a track that represented “the sound of the future”. Employing the Moog Modular system with an 8-step analogue sequencer plus a triplet delay to create the pulsing synthesizer lines and metronomic beat, ‘I Feel Love’ changed the course of music. Summer’s hypnotic Middle Eastern falsetto was an accident, coming as a result of the track being laid down outside of her usual vocal range.

Available on the album ‘I Feel Love: The Collection’ via Spectrum

http://donnasummer.com/


KRAFTWERK The Model (1978)

Using a Micromoog for its iconic hook, ‘The Model’ was inspired by KRAFTWERK’s visits to night clubs in the more vibrant city of Cologne 30km down the road from Düsseldorf where their iconic Kling Klang studio was based. There, they would observe beautiful models drinking champagne and seek their company. It was quite the antithesis of the robot image that the quartet were portraying. Sonically ahead of its time, it became a UK No1 four years after its initial release in 1982.

Available on the album ‘The Man Machine’ via EMI Music

http://www.kraftwerk.com/


SPARKS No1 Song In Heaven (1979)

In a creative rut following their massive UK success in the glam-era, the Mael Brothers had found ‘I Feel Love’ awe inspiring. A journalist friend put SPARKS into contact with Giorgio Moroder who had aspirations to work with a band and set to work with them immediately. The first result was the tremendous ‘No1 Song In Heaven’ where Russell Mael’s flamboyant falsetto fitted well with the electro-disco sound, while the programmed backing meant Ron Mael could maintain his image of doing nothing.

Available on the SPARKS album ‘No1 In Heaven’ via Repertoire Records

http://allsparks.com/


TUBEWAY ARMY Are Friends Electric? (1979)

Still using the group name of TUBEWAY ARMY at the behest of Beggars Banquet, the astoundingly long ‘Are Friends Electric?’ with its diabolus in musica structure became the entry point for many into electronic music. It was Synth Britannia’s ‘Starman’ moment when it was featured on ‘Top Of The Pops’ and Old Grey Whistle Test’ during the same week. When it reached No1 in the UK, life was never the same for Gary Numan, the pale-faced front man of what turned out to be a phantom band.

Available on the album ‘Replicas’ via Beggars Banquet

http://garynuman.com/


JOHN FOXX Underpass (1980)

Departing ULTRAVOX after the ‘Systems Of Romance’ album and now making music along with an ARP Odyssey, Elka Rhapsody and a Roland CR78 Compurhythm, John Foxx realised his own starker vision of electronic music. Engineered by Gareth Jones who was to later notably work with DEPECHE MODE, ‘Underpass’ channelled the dystopian writings of JG Ballard in his lyrical imagery, with Foxx added that the English novelist was “addressing what I’d come to call ‘the unrecognised present’.”

Available on the album ‘Metamatic’ via Metamatic Records

http://metamatic.com/


THE HUMAN LEAGUE The Black Hit Of Space (1980)

A track that “weighed more than Saturn”, ‘The Black Hit Of Space’ sounded extraordinary when it opened the second album by THE HUMAN LEAGUE. The Sci-Fi lyrics about an infinite pop hit were strangely out there while harsh screeching frequencies from overdriving the mixing desk; “We were also experimenting with guitar pedals” Martyn Ware told The Electricity Club, “All that was a reaction to the cleanness of the previous album so we overcompensated.”

Available on the album ‘Travelogue’ via Virgin Records

http://www.thehumanleague.co.uk/


JAPAN Quiet Life (1980)

The resonant heart of ‘Quiet Life’ was a Roland System 700 driven by Richard Barbieri’s snappy eight step Oberheim Mini-sequencer. Complimented by Mick Karn’s distinctively fluid fretless bass, Rob Dean’s clean guitar lines and David Sylvian’s lyrical conclusion that the band were outsiders in the environment they were born into, it was a sure-fire hit… but not yet as Ariola Hansa release it as a single in the UK until 1981. But meanwhile, JAPAN had invented DURAN DURAN!

Available on the album ‘Quiet Life’ via Sony Music

http://www.nightporter.co.uk/


OMD Messages (1980)

Within the environment of colder electronic pioneers such as Gary Numan and John Foxx, OMD were perhaps the first of the warmer synthesizer bands. ‘Messages’ utilised a pulsing ‘Repeat’ function on a Korg Micro-Preset shaped by hand twisting the octave knob. Re-recorded from the original album version under the helm of producer Mike Howlett, he harnessed a template of basic primary chord structures and one fingered melodies, netting a No13 UK chart hit.

Available on the album ‘Souvenir: The Singles Collection 1979 – 2019’ via Virgin Records

http://www.omd.uk.com


ULTRAVOX Astradyne (1980)

Of ‘Astradyne’, Billy Currie told The Electricity Club: “Midge started with that strong melody, Chris’ bass was also a very strong feature. I played a piano counter melody behind. The track was so strong that we felt at ease to lengthen it with a long textural piano bit that is sort of bell-like with the metronomic bass drum beats and the violin tremolo solo… Midge came up with that final section lift taking it out of the long ARP solo. I double it! It is very celebratory at the end…”

Available on the album ‘Vienna’ via Chrysalis/EMI Records

http://www.ultravox.org.uk/


VISAGE Fade To Grey (1980)

Conceived during soundchecks under the working title of ‘Toot City’ while they were playing on Gary Numan’s first concert tour, Chris Payne, Billy Currie and Ced Sharpley had recorded the track at Genetic Studios as a souvenir keepsake. Midge Ure later came up lyrics and a melody when the track was added to the debut VISAGE album and the rest was history. Capturing the cinematic pomp of the New Romantic movement in all its glory, ‘Fade To Grey’ became a No1 hit in West Germany.

Available on the album ‘Visage’ via Polydor Records

http://www.therealvisage.com/


DEPECHE MODE New Life (1981)

Written by Vince Clarke and produced by Daniel Miller, DEPECHE MODE fulfilled the Mute label founder’s vision of a teenage pop group with synthesizers that he had imagined and conceived for SILICON TEENS. Despite its danceable bubblegum appeal and catchy synthesizer hooks, ‘New Life’ also featured some intricate folk vocal harmonies which made it quite distinct from the chanty nature of THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘The Sound Of The Crowd’ which was also out at the same time.

Available on the album ‘Speak & Spell’ via Mute Records

http://www.depechemode.com/


SIMPLE MINDS Theme For Great Cities (1981)

The expansive instrumental ‘Theme for Great Cities’ was initially been given away as a freebie having initially been part of ‘Sister Feelings Call’, a seven track EP given gratis to early purchasers of SIMPLE MINDS’ breakthrough fourth album ‘Sons & Fascination’. Starting with some haunting vox humana before a combination of CAN and TANGERINE DREAM takes hold, the rhythm section covered in dub echo drove what is possibly one of the greatest synth signatures ever!

Available on the album ‘Sons & Fascination / Sister Feelings Call’ via Virgin/EMI Records

http://www.simpleminds.com


SOFT CELL Tainted Love (1981)

SOFT CELL’s cover of ‘Tainted Love’ became ubiquitous as Synth Britannia’s first true crossover record, reaching No1 in UK, Germany, Australia and Canada while also breaking the US Top 10 a year later. Written by Ed Cobb, ‘Tainted Love’ was recorded by Gloria Jones and became a Wigan Casino favourite on the Northern Soul scene. As a fan of that scene, David Ball knew the song and took it into haunting electronic torch territory, while Marc Almond added an honestly spirited vocal.

Available on the album ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’ via Mercury Records

https://www.softcell.co.uk/


ASSOCIATES Party Fears Two (1982)

With its iconic honky tonk piano line and sophisticated arrangement, ‘Party Fears Two’ was a magnificent song about dealing with the perils of schizophrenia, made all the more resonant by Billy Mackenzie’s operatic prowess. It also kick started a brief period when ASSOCIATES subverted the UK charts with an avant pop approach that fitted in with the Synth Britannia template of the times. A Top10 hit and emotive to the nth degree, the original single version is still the best and total perfection.

Available on the album ‘The Very Best Of’ via Union Square

https://www.facebook.com/theassociatesofficial/


BLANCMANGE I’ve Seen The Word (1982)

Harrow College of Art students Neil Arthur and Stephen Luscombe were unlikely pop stars, but an appearance on the ‘Some Bizzare Album’ led to a deal with London Records as well as support slots with DEPECHE MODE and JAPAN. Using a Korg MS20 synched to a Linn Drum Computer as its rhythmic backbone, the haunting melancholy of ‘I’ve Seen The Word’ fused the sombre lyricism of JOY DIVISION with the melodies and textures of OMD via a Roland Jupiter 8.

Available on the album ‘Happy Families’ via Edsel Records

http://www.blancmange.co.uk/


CHINA CRISIS Christian (1982)

Merseyside duo CHINA CRISIS are probably the most under rated band of their generation. The haunting ‘Christian’ was a song about the fate of soldiers in the trenches during World War One. Slow and melancholic, ‘Christian’ was as unlikely a hit single as ‘Ghosts’ by JAPAN was, but in a far more open-minded and diverse period in pop music than today, acts with a less obvious rock ‘n’ roll outlook were generally in with a chance; it reached No12 in the UK singles charts.

Available on the album ‘Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms, Some People Think It’s Fun To Entertain’ via Caroline International

https://www.facebook.com/chinacrisisofficial/


NEW ORDER Temptation (1982)

‘Temptation’ was NEW ORDER’s self-produced electronic breakthrough away from the haunting legacy of JOY DIVISION. The recording itself was marvellously flawed, with Stephen Morris’ overdriven Simmons snare panned too far to the right while band members could also be heard calling instructions and tutting. The pulsing hypnotism of the triggered ARP Quadra and the iconic “oooh-oo-ooh” vocal refrain made ‘Temptation’ rather joyous and magical.

Available on the album ‘Singles’ via WEA Records

http://www.neworder.com/


BRONSKI BEAT Smalltown Boy (1984)

When Jimmy Somerville, Steve Bronski and the late Larry Steinbachek made their first ever TV appearance performing on BBC2’s ‘ORS’, BRONSKI BEAT were nothing short of startling, thanks to their look, their minimal synth sound and Somerville’s lonely earth shattering falsetto. The trio had sought to be more outspoken and political in their position as openly gay performers and the tale of ‘Smalltown Boy’ about a gay teenager leaving his family and fleeing his hometown made an important statement.

Available on the album ‘The Age Of Consent’ via London Records

http://www.bronskibeat.co.uk/


PET SHOP BOYS West End Girls (1985)

It was with the re-recorded Stephen Hague version of ‘West End Girls’ that PET SHOP BOYS hit No1 in both the UK and US in 1986. Interestingly, the character of its distinctive bass synth was achieved by Hague coercing a reluctant Chris Lowe into hand playing the riff. Meanwhile, the track fulfilled Neil Tennant’s concept of the duo sounding “like an English rap group” with a dour demeanour that was the antithesis of WHAM! It started an imperial phase for PET SHOP BOYS which included three more No1s.

Available on the album ‘PopArt’ via EMI Music

https://www.petshopboys.co.uk/


CAMOUFLAGE The Great Commandment (1988)

In today’s world, DEPECHE MODE influenced acts are common place but in 1988, this was highly unusual. Taking ‘Some Great Reward’ as their template, CAMOUFLAGE developed on the industrial flavoured synthpop of ‘Master & Servant’ and ‘People Are People’ which the Basildon boys had all but abandoned from ‘Black Celebration’ onwards. Probably the best single DM never recorded. while ‘The Great Commandment’ was a hit in Europe and the US, it made no impression in Britain.

Available on the CAMOUFLAGE album ‘The Singles’ via Polydor Records / Universal Music

http://www.camouflage-music.com/


ERASURE A Little Respect (1988)

Produced by Stephen Hague, ‘A Little Respect’ was perfection from the off with its lively combination of Vince Clarke’s pulsing programming and strummed acoustic guitar. As the busy rhythmical engine kicked in, Andy Bell went from a tenor to a piercing falsetto to provide the dynamic highs and lows that are always omnipresent in all the great pop songs like ‘Dancing Queen’ and ‘Careless Whisper’. Something of a crossover record for ERASURE, ‘A Little Respect’ was covered by WHEATUS in 2000.

Available on the album ‘Total Pop! – The First 40 Hits’ via Mute Records

http://www.erasureinfo.com/


DUBSTAR Not So Manic Now (1995)

DUBSTAR straddled Britpop with a twist of Synth Britannia. ‘Not So Manic Now’ was a song by Wakefield indie band BRICK SUPPLY, but the trio made it their own with the Northern lass earthiness of Sarah Blackwood providing the chilling commentary of an attack on a helpless pensioner. Stephen Hague’s wonderful production fused programmed electronics with guitars and cello in fine fashion, while the incessant programmed rhythms drove the song along without being obtrusive to the horrifying story.

Available on the album ‘Disgraceful’ via Food Records

http://dubstarofficial.co/


GOLDFRAPP Lovely Head (2000)

It is interesting to think that GOLDFRAPP were initially labelled as a trip-hop act. Their superb stratospheric debut ‘Felt Mountain’ had Ennio Morricone’s widescreen inflections but to accompany an ascent to the Matterhorn rather than a trek through a Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. The opening song ‘Lovely Head’ was laced with deviant sexual tension. Will Gregory’s mad Korg MS20 treatments on Alison Goldfrapp’s operatic screaming produced some thrilling musical moments.

Available on the album ‘Felt Mountain’ via Mute Records

https://www.goldfrapp.com/


MISS KITTIN & THE HACKER You & Us (2001)

Describing the relationship between artist and fan, this was another throbbing Moroder-inspired cacophony of electronic dance from Michel Amato with a dirty clanking Korg KR55 Rhythm used to great effect. Deliciously hypnotic, the swimmy ARP synths drowned any sorrows as the pulsing euphoria took a hold. Miss Kittin didn’t sing as much as deadpan her thoughts, but her sexy Grenoble charm carried off what was a rather superb Electroclash anthem.

Available on the album ‘The First Album’ via Nobodys Bizzness

http://www.misskittin.com/


LADYTRON Seventeen (2002)

LADYTRON became one of the first bands for many years to primarily use synthesizers as their tools of expression and attain critical acclaim. Their debut ‘604’showed electro potential in their initial quest to find ‘yesterday’s tomorrow’. With octave shifts galore to satirical lyrics about the X-Factor/Next Year’s Top Model generation, ‘Seventeen’ demonstrated the tactile nature of analogue synthesis that was key to a revival in fortunes for electronic pop in the 21st Century.

Available on the album ‘Light & Magic’ via Nettwerk

http://www.ladytron.com/


THE KNIFE Silent Shout (2006)

Probably the most influential electronic act to come out of Sweden are THE KNIFE. Those long winter nights certainly had their effect on siblings Karin and Olof Dreijer. ‘Silent Shout’ was hypnotic understated rave with the a quota of creepy Nordic eccentricity. The sharp appregiator and ambient percussion melted with Karin Dreijer’s heavily pitch-shifted low register vocals providing a menacing counterpoint to her younger brother’s vibrant electronic lattice.

Available on the album ‘Silent Shout’ via Brille Records

https://theknife.net/


MARSHEAUX Dream Of A Disco (2007)

Is a cover or is it Memorex? This interpolation of ‘Space Age Love Song’ by A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS provided MARSHEAUX with their most immediate number yet. Borrowing the uniformed look of CLIENT but applying a pure synthpop template, Marianthi Melitsi and Sophie Sarigiannidou became notable for their marketing masterstrokes. The parent ‘Peek-A-Boo’ CD included a paper bag ghost mask. Fans wore it, took pictures and sent them to the duo… around 3,500 pictures were gathered!

Available on the album ‘Peek-A-Boo’ via Undo Records

https://www.marsheaux.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
13th March 2020

BOYTRONIC The Robot Treatment

Holger Wobker, the man who many consider to be the original BOYTRONIC is back after 10 years with a new album ‘The Robot Treatment’.

Interestingly to assist his recorded return, Wobker has partnered up with BOYTRONIC’s former vocalist James Knights.

Never before in the history of pop music has a predecessor collaborated with their replacement to make a new album, try to imagine John Foxx and Midge Ure working on a new ULTRAVOX album together?

Vintage flavoured HI-NRG and Italo reigns supreme on ‘The Robot Treatment’. Best known for the German Top10 hit ‘You’ in 1983, Wobker’s aim was to return with a record that was as BOYTRONIC as possible and when he met Knights in 2018, they found a common bond both personally and musically.

‘Under The Red’ exudes Wobker’s enthusiasm, but the album really takes off with ‘All You Can Eat’, a spirited falsetto duet by Wobker and Knights that doesn’t sound unlike members of NEW ORDER jamming along to BRONSKI BEAT’s ‘Hit That Perfect Beat’!

Also particularly good is ‘You Can’t Get Fooled By Love’, a great tune with more than a nod to PET SHOP BOYS ‘West End Girls’, while the bubbling ‘She Gave Me Money’ is authentic Eurodisco for the cassette player of any Opel Manta owner; both are classic BOYTRONIC.

‘Smell Of Fire’ takes on a moodier Italo stance with a digital slap bass, but ‘No Sad Songs’ is singalong Europop, laced with synth brass stabs which could easily mutate into a KNIGHT$ solo tune. The spacier ‘Venus Covers Mars’ has a good verse although the chorus is not quite as appealing. Bright and breezy with simulated guitars, ‘Wayward Sister’ perhaps needs more of a bass drum kick but the synthetic choirs and bells are pretty.

Closing with ‘Can’t Wait A Second’, the track’s immediate bounce might have benefitted being placed earlier in the sequence.

But as with the arpeggio laden ‘Bark’, Wobker’s vocals are a bit raw and wayward at times, which might be off-putting for listeners not previously into the charms of BOYTRONIC.

However, the objective of making a BOYTRONIC album that sounds like BOYTRONIC has been achieved. And with live shows coming up, the big speaker environment of a club and the vibrant extrovert personality of a front man with something to prove may well see ‘The Robot Treatment’ really come into its own.


‘The Robot Treatment’ is released by Wuff Records on 6th September 2019 in CD, vinyl LP and digital formats, pre-ordered direct from https://boytronic01.bandcamp.com/album/the-robot-treatment-album

BOYTRONIC play Berlin ORWOhaus on Saturday 7th September 2019 with support from !DISTAIN

http://www.boytronic.eu

https://www.facebook.com/BoytronicOriginal/

https://twitter.com/boytronicorigi1

https://www.instagram.com/boytronicoriginal/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
2nd September 2019

BOYTRONIC All You Can Eat

Now imagine John Foxx and Midge Ure teaming up to do a brand new ULTRAVOX album…

While not sounding like the synthesizer pioneers who named themselves after the Latin phrase meaning “extreme voice”, Holger Wobker and James Knights have done the equivalent and got together to make a brand new album as BOYTRONIC.

Having gained the rights to the name, Wobker was highly motivated and appropriately, their first fruit of collaboration was called ‘Proving A Point’. Having appeared earlier in the year on the debut KNIGHT$ album ‘Dollars & Cents’, Knights said: “I had a demo of this for many years but the idea to do this with Holger obviously came later. We’ve both had similar experiences and difficulties so we thought with this track, let’s tell it as it is, we needed to let something out.”

But the first BOYTRONIC track to emerge from the Anglo-German pair is ‘All You Can Eat’, a spirited Eurobeat duet in which both Wobker and Knights hit those high notes with aplomb. Meanwhile musically, ‘All You Can Eat’ doesn’t sound unlike members of NEW ORDER jamming along to BRONSKI BEAT’s ‘Hit That Perfect Beat’!

Of his new partnership with Knights, Wobker said to The Electricity Club: “James understands exactly what BOYTRONIC is about. I don’t have to say much when we’re communicating ideas, it all comes naturally. Even when I’m drifting away, he puts me on the right track. We both have a vision how it’s got to be, and that’s great.”

Crossing HI-NRG with Britalo, the new BOYTRONIC album ‘The Robot Treatment’ promises to be an authentic analogue journey to create a full and groovy electronic sound.

BOYTRONIC had the misfortune to get embroiled in the Pledge Music debacle, resulting in loss of money for both the band and fans. However, Holger Wobker and James Knights have made a joint statement announcing: “If you are a fan who took part in our crowdfunding campaign, we are truly sorry for the inconvenience Pledge Music’s bankruptcy has caused. We are aware some people have received refunds direct from their bank. Others have not. Despite countless attempts to contact Pledge Music for information on where the money went, we have been kept in the dark now since February 2019. If you are a Pledger who wants to buy direct from the band, we are offering a 10% discount in our Bandcamp store. You can contact mirrormanagency@gmail.com for your discount code!”


‘All You Can Eat’ is released by Wuff Records as a download single

The limited edition signed CD or vinyl LP of ‘The Robot Treatment’ is released on 6th September 2019 and can be pre-ordered direct from https://boytronic01.bandcamp.com

BOYTRONIC play Berlin ORWOhaus on Saturday 7th September 2019 with support from !DISTAIN

https://www.facebook.com/BoytronicOriginal/

https://twitter.com/boytronicorigi1

https://www.instagram.com/boytronicoriginal/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
2nd July 2019

KNIGHT$ Interview

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

Combining the Italo spirit of SAVAGE and RAF with British exponents of the form such as PET SHOP BOYS and NEW ORDER, the debut album by KNIGHT$ is one of the best albums of 2019.

‘Dollars & Cents’ is one of those fine immediate electronic pop records, ideal for these turbulent and uncertain socio-political times. The solo musical vehicle of James Knights, his bright crowd pleasing nature has made him a must-see live performer following well-received gigs in Europe.

With a stylish energetic persona coming over like the love child of Richard Butler and Neil Tennant, the catchy glitterball Britalo of KNIGHT$ will be playing all in clubs over the UK in July as the opening act for A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS.

Gathered together in the corner of a bar in Hoxton to avoid the barrage of televised football, James Knights chatted to The Electricity Club about the making of ‘Dollars & Cents’, working with ITALOCONNECTION, plans for his upcoming shows and surviving the vultures circulating in the music industry…

‘Dollars & Cents’ appears to have been a well-received escapist triumph?

I think so, so far it feels like all the objectives have been achieved. Maybe people were feeling a bit of doom and gloom with Brexit so needed a lift; it definitely did that in the short term.

Was ‘Dollars & Cents’ a natural choice for the title track, did you have a theme in mind for the album?

I knew I wanted the album to be as uplifting and uptempo as possible. In terms of the album title, it seemed to make sense, only because as I went through all nine tracks, that was the one that jumped out at me. I later found out RADIOHEAD had a song called that which was quite disappointing…

You achieved some of that authentic ‘Gelato’ flavour by working with Italo legend Fred Ventura on three tracks, how did the association come about?

I have to thank YouTube for this because I was listening to a lot of Italo playlists and this song came on… I looked up who it was that made it, but I didn’t make the connection between Fred and ITALOCONNECTION. Once I realised, I thought maybe we could do something and I wrote a message to him.

Fred was a total gentleman about being open to working together and when I sent him ‘Alligator’, he completely wanted to get involved. It’s funny, but he said “It’s synth music but it reminds me of THE CLASH”, so thank you Fred and his partner Paolo, they did a good job.

One of The Electricity Club’s Italian friends thought the middle section with the girl speaking sounded a bit “porno”, was that the intention? *laughs*

I have to say, it wasn’t that thought out… my vocals require many takes but that part with the Italian girl Monia Rega took two! I asked her to sing on the track, the first take she did very well but the timing wasn’t quite what I wanted, the second time she got it completely bang on. There was never a discussion about this so I don’t know what to say, we were looking for a vibe but we never mentioned anything dodgy like that! *laughs*

You know there was a weird European TV game show called ‘Tutti Frutti’ where contestants answered questions to get strippers to take their clothes off???

No! *laughs*

‘Hijack My Heart’ had you tightening your trousers for a great Jimmy Somerville impression?

In many other projects that I’ve been in before, maybe I didn’t have the guts to go up that high but it needed to be done. I’ve sung high live but never quite got there on the records. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

It works really well; did you have BRONSKI BEAT in mind when you recorded ‘Hijack My Heart’?

I have to say if I’m going to break down all those elements, the song that I always come back to is ‘Hit That Perfect Beat’ by BRONSKI BEAT… I don’t know if it’s the production or what and I know Jimmy isn’t singing that one, but it’s got a vibe I like it.

Did you raid your sister’s record collection for inspiration, because ‘Running’ isn’t that far off early MADONNA?

Yes, it’s got a bit of that and definitely some Whitney, it was like a “let go” thing to get me out of my comfort zone! It was the hardest track to finish and mix so when I breakdown that whole record, it’s the one where I haven’t had that many opinions on. I think it’s because it just happens, it’s very natural and appears at the end of the record… maybe time will tell, it takes a couple of listens for it to really work. That was the nearest thing to an experimental moment on the album.

Talking of experimental moments, ‘Proving A Point’ is perhaps the most unorthodox track on the album, featuring Holger Wobker of BOYTRONIC…

Yes, it is different from the other tracks on the album, I had a demo of this for many years but the idea to do this with Holger obviously came later. We’ve both had similar experiences and difficulties so we thought with this track, let’s tell it as it is, we needed to let something out.

I really like ROBYN and her albums always have a couple of tracks in, these diversions that give the album some sense within the pop.

So ‘Proving A Point’ is your ‘Konichiwa Bitches’?

Yes, I felt we needed it! *laughs*

What was the idea behind the throbbing ‘Shadows’, another track with Fred Ventura?

That goes back to a demo I had on this old four track TASCAM, I’d played all the synths and they were completely out of time. We knew which tracks were going to go down first on the album but I dragged out this demo, it needed a touch up and ITALOCONNECTION did an amazing job. It’s nice to resurrect things because it means you didn’t waste your time all those years before. It’s got a nice YAZOO feel to it.

Photo by Gilbert Yates

‘Dollars & Cents’ is a pretty straight-up full-on uptempo electronic pop album over nine tracks, had that been a conscious decision, are albums too long now?

Yeah, I could watch my favourite band of all time and two hours would be too much! I know other music fans think differently, but a good hour of anything is fine, my album is not even that!

What do you think of this new trend for two volume album works like MARINA, THE 1975 and TR/ST have done?

I wouldn’t do a debut album that way but maybe there’s room for it later on. But I really can’t imagine doing that, it’s hard enough work trying to write good songs without having then to find a thread, it’s not in my way of thinking.

For both ‘Dollars & Cents’ and the new BOYTRONIC album you’re involved in, you used Pledge Music and there have been some very public difficulties with its cashflow; how has this hampered you as an artist?

If it wasn’t for having a good fanbase, it would have been a complete disaster. But going with Pledge Music when I did was the worst thing I could have done, I went in at the wrong time! You have to think that the music will live on and that people will back you. People will back whatever they believe in and luckily, I’ve had many messages of support and we just got on with it, all of the fans have been great.

So what is happening with the upcoming BOYTRONIC album?

That’s was a bit tricky because I was meant to be paid by Pledge in December, so I’ve put my own money into recording the BOYTRONIC album. Obviously, I’m still down because the album’s not yet released, but I hope that it all comes good. A hell of a lot have bands like JESUS JONES have been inconvenienced and very vocal about the situation, but the only way we are going to get any solace from this is the music.

As history has proven, there is always someone in the music industry misappropriating money trusted to them by artists and fans. So is there a future to crowdfunding because no matter what happens, it seems like artists are just making money for a different type of crook?

I once did a calculation based on a record deal I was offered… I could sell 1000 myself or with the record deal, it would give me wider growth and expose me to more people, but I would earn exactly the same money if I sold 8000!! In this day and age, it’s so hard to sell 8000 copies of anything that it’s better to keep everything in house probably and try to sell 1000. People will say that’s short sighted but I don’t think it is.

Even at an independent level, there are people getting into the music industry who apply a smokescreen for more sinister intentions, be they DJs who hate the 80s doing 80s radio shows or event promoters who believe ticket touts are “free enterprise”. Any thoughts?

They will always be there, and unfortunately there will always be artists who take the same view… any artist that doesn’t believe in what they’re making, they’re in the wrong game… what can I say? it’s survival of the fittest.

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

On a more cheerful note, your album launch party in London was a great success and even led to you inviting the audience to join you on stage just like early SOFT CELL gigs?

It was a big rush, because you never know what’s going to happen at gigs, you know what London is like. The fact that people came out and really got into it, it was brilliant. My stage is their stage and I wouldn’t really want to create a divide.

I’m not interested in crash barriers, if people want to come up, they should be able to come up. I would rather someone join me on stage and lose their minds.

You had an interesting gig is Sweden because of the venue set up?

That was in Halmstad, the original gig had been cancelled and they moved us to what seemed like the local Wetherspoons, I was on at two in the morning and it was crazy! *laughs*

The Swedes love their Italo…

I think it’s just an appreciation of melody coming through via the ABBA tradition, they really know a good song when they hear one. If there wasn’t any melody, we wouldn’t remember anything.

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

You’re touring this UK with A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS?

I’m really excited about it and looking forward to going round the UK again with two nights in London, there’s a lot to be thankful for.

I’ve always loved A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS, I know they get a lot of stick with the haircuts and whatever, but they’re far better than people give them credit for. The songs aren’t that far from THE CURE, let’s be honest! It’s nice to be part of it.

So for those people who may not know what you are like live, why should they come along and arrive early?

They’d be fools not too! I have some nice surprises up my sleeve but for every person who has decided to sit in the pub to have an extra beer, I will match that beer! So if they turn up early, the beers are on me! *laughs*

What’s on the cards for the future?

I’d like to make another record as soon as possible but it always takes longer than you think, but we’ll have to see. And it would be nice to do an end of year show somewhere…


The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to James Knights

‘Dollars & Cents’ is released by Specchio Uomo in CD and download formats, available now from https://knights101.bandcamp.com/album/dollars-cents-lp

KNIGHT$ opens for A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS on the following 2019 UK tour dates:

Wolverhampton Robin 2 (11th July), London Dingwalls (12th-13th July), Liverpool Cavern (14th July), Leeds Brudenell Social Club (17th July), Newcastle Riverside (18th July), Glasgow Art School (19th July)

http://knights101.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Knights101/

https://twitter.com/JPSKNIGHTS

https://www.instagram.com/knights101/

http://knightstore.bigcartel.com

https://open.spotify.com/album/24YAx5VzMc2hpQ14xuF0Jn


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
19th May 2019, updated 25th June 2019

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