Tag: Stuart Price (Page 1 of 2)

25 ELECTRONIC CHEESY LISTENING

When the first huge synthesizer complexes from the likes of RCA, Moog, Buchla and EMS emerged, initially they were the realm of the avant garde.

But gradually they ended up in all genres of music, often as dressing and for effect before become a dominant melodic presence. ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s 25 FAVOURITE SYNTH SONGS BY NON-SYNTH ACTS listing in 2016 demonstrated how more rock-oriented exponents such as Paul McCartney, Robert Palmer, Pete Shelley, Leonard Cohen and even Neil Young took to electronic experimentation in the wake of the pioneering exploits of KRAFTWERK and the subsequent success of Synth Britannia.

As synthesizers became more cost effective and reliable, they began to replace live musicians within the mainstream, particularly in a live context. Using synthesizers to imitate the sound of an orchestra and brass section rather than using the real instruments themselves on his UK tour, who would have thought that it would be Barry Manilow who would anger the Musicians Union enough to table a motion in 1982 to ban synthesizers from recording and live performance.

As a follow-up to 25 FAVOURITE SYNTH SONGS BY NON-SYNTH ACTS, here are 25 songs in yearly then alphabetical order of a more cheesy listening, AOR and mainstream pop bent which have utilised synths prominently enough to raise the question, “is it or is it not electronic pop?”


DAVID ESSEX Gonna Make You A Star (1975)

Produced by Jeff Wayne with heavy use of synthesizer on its brassy leadline and bass counterpoints, ‘Gonna Make You A Star’ was a UK No1 single for David Essex. Singing in a cockney accent, the song was his ironic commentary on his roots and being seen as a pop idol in the vein of David Cassidy, hence the line “Oh is he more, too much more, than a pretty face? It’s so strange the way he talk – it’s a disgrace”.

Available on the DAVID ESSEX album ‘David Essex’ via Sony Music

https://www.davidessex.com/


MARIANNE FAITHFULL The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan (1979)

Originally recorded in 1974 by DR HOOK & THE MEDICINE SHOW, ‘The Ballad of Lucy Jordan’ was given the pulsing electronic treatment by producer Mark Miller Mundy and the legendary Steve Winwood. The arrangement suited Ms Faithfull’s now raucous deep voice, the result of years of alcohol and substance abuse. It was a far cry from the sweet melodicism of her early records like ‘As Tears Go By’ but her art reflected her life.

Available on the MARIANNE FAITHFULL album ‘Broken English’ via Island Records

http://www.mariannefaithfull.org.uk/


THE MANHATTAN TRANSFER Coo Coo U (1979)

American azz and pop vocal quartet THE MANHATTAN TRANSFER hit No1 with the self-explanatory ‘Chanson D’Amour’ in 1976. But in 1979, they covered ‘Coo Coo U’, a song first recorded by THE KINGSTON TRIO in 1959 with synths, vocoder and varispeeded voices in the manner of THE RESIDENTS. Their avant-easy approach continued in a futuristic Akai advert which saw the quartet dressed as Numanoids!

Available on THE MANHATTAN TRANSFER album ‘Extensions’ via Craft Recordings

https://manhattantransfer.net/


ABBA Lay All Your Love On Me (1981)

While synths had always been part of ABBA’s forte on songs like ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!’, the Super Swedes eschewed their characteristic piano and went to whole electronic disco hog on ‘Lay All Your Love On Me’. Released in the UK on 12” only, it reached No7 and despite being the same as the ‘Super Trouper’ album mix, it became the biggest selling 12 inch before being overtaken by NEW ORDER’s ‘Blue Monday’.

Available on the ABBA album ‘Super Trouper’ via Universal Music

https://abbasite.com/


DOLLAR Mirror Mirror (1981)

Having been in the syrupy cabaret act GUYS ‘N’ DOLLS, David Van Day and Thereza Bazar continued in that vein with songs like ‘Who Were You With In The Moonlight?’. But the duo approached Trevor Horn who was carving out a new career as a producer and gave DOLLAR a more distinctive technologically enhanced art pop sound. ‘Mirror Mirror’ was the bounciest of the four singles produced by Horn which brought him to the attention of ABC.

Available on ‘The DOLLAR Album’ via Cherry Red Records

https://www.facebook.com/DollarOfficial


DARYL HALL & JOHN OATES I Can’t Go That (1981)

With songs such as ‘She’s Gone’ and ‘Rich Girl’, Daryl Hall and John Oates were rooted in soul of the blue-eyed variety. While ‘I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)’ was not exactly Gary Numan, the hook laden tune did make use of similar instrumentation with a Prophet 5 featuring heavily as well as the Rock 1 setting on a Roland CR78 CompuRhythm for theor first UK Top 10 hit.

Available on the DARYL HALL & JOHN OATES album ‘Private Eyes’ via RCA

https://hallandoates.com/


ROD STEWART Young Turks (1981)

Better known for his anthemic ballads, Rod Stewart had jumped on the disco bandwagon with ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy’. In 1981, he went with a LinnDrum driven new wave synth sound not far off what Robert Palmer had experimented with the year before on his ‘Clues’ album. A slang term for rebellious youth, ‘Young Turks’ saw Rod The Mod adapting his gravelly voice over a frantic pulsing backdrop.

Available on the ROD STEWART album ‘The Story So Far’ via Warner Music

https://rodstewart.com/


BEF Presents TINA TURNER Ball Of Confusion (1982)

‘Music Of Quality & Distinction Vol1’ was conceived as a high-tech covers project featuring guest vocalists helmed by Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh of HEAVEN 17. Tina Turner had been languishing on the “chicken-in-a-basket” circuit but the album saw her recorded return on a blistering reworking of THE TEMPTATIONS’ Ball Of Confusion’. It featured musicians as diverse as guitarist John McGeoch and Paul Jones on harmonica next to Roland System 100 sequencing!

Available on the BEF album ‘1981-2011’ via Virgin Records

https://www.tinaturnerofficial.com/


BUCKS FIZZ Stepping Out (1982)

Best known for winning the Eurovision Song Contest with ‘Making Your Mind Up’ in 1981, three UK No1s, a coach crash and very public in-fighting leading today to one member owning the BUCKS FIZZ while the other three quarters ply their trade as THE FIZZ, ‘Stepping Out’ was their self-produced and self-composed foray into synths with a twist of ABBA! It was originally released as the B-side of ‘If You Can’t Stand The Heat’.

Available on the BUCKS FIZZ boxed set ‘The Land Of Make Believe – The Definitive Collection’ via Cherry Red Records

https://www.thefizzofficial.com/


HOT CHOCOLATE It Started With A Kiss (1982)

The spacey ‘Put Your Love In Me’ from 1977 saw HOT CHOCOLATE playing with ARP Solina string machines but produced by Mickie Most, the tearjerking ballad ‘It Started With A Kiss’ was shaped by synth counterpoints from Pete Wingfield who had produced DEXY’S MIDNIGHT RUNNERS ‘Geno’. By strange coincidence , the song was a favourite of Kevin Rowland, then riding high with the Celtic-flavoured reinvention of the band.

Available on the HOT CHOCOLATE album ‘The Very Best Of’ via RAK Records

https://www.facebook.com/HotChocolateband/


TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS You Got Lucky (1982)

Something of an outlier in the Tom Petty catalogue away from his heartland rock, ‘You Got Lucky’ used a taped drum loop and while there was a Morricone-inspired guitar solo, it was Benmont Tench on an Oberheim OBXa and Roland Juno-60 who carried the song’s main structure. However, despite later singing ‘I Won’t Back Down’ in 1989, ‘You Got Lucky’ was not popular with Petty and was initially rarely played live.

Available on the TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS album ‘Long After Dark’ via Universal Music

https://www.tompetty.com/


LEO SAYER Orchard Road (1983)

If there is one man who can be credited for bring synths into the wider easy listening sound, it is producer Alan Tarney who later worked with A-HA. Composing the music to ‘Orchard Road’, Tarney provided an eerie electronic backdrop for Leo Sayer to plead forgiveness to his wife after a marital affair. The released version was actually the one take demo with Sayer improvising the words, capturing his regret.

Available on the LEO SAYER album ‘Have You Ever Been in Love’ via Demon Records

https://www.leosayer.com/


JENNIFER RUSH The Power Of Love (1984)

Considered by many to be the ultimate alto-operatic power ballad, ‘The Power Of Love’ was dominated by a synth and computer programmed backdrop by Harry Baierl punctuated by Simmons drums. The song was initially denied a release in Jennifer Rush’s US homeland for sounding “too European”. Seeming like it was about to morph into ULTRAVOX’s ‘Vienna’, the song was later covered by Celine Dion.

Available on the JENNIFER RUSH album ‘The Power Of Love’ via Sony Music

http://www.jennifer-rush.com/


DAVID CASSIDY The Last Kiss (1985)

Former teen idol David Cassidy reinvented his music career with a Cliff Richard song that had originally been released as ‘Young Love’ which was written and produced by Alan Tarney. Given a revised slower treatment by Tarney with new lyrics by Cassidy, the synth laden ‘The Last Kiss’ also featured a cameo backing vocal by George Michael who was to have his own ethereal synth heavy hit with ‘A Different Corner’.

Available on the DAVID CASSIDY album ‘Romance’ via Arista Records

https://www.davidcassidy.com/


FOREIGNER That Was Yesterday (1985)

While ‘Waiting For A Girl’ was dominated by a synth line played by Thomas Dolby, ‘That Was Yesterday’ was virtually devoid of conventional guitar and bass although live drums were retained. Almost like gothic AOR, the 12 inch and instrumental orchestral versions enhanced the synth elements even more in a song about the haunting sub-conscious emotions of past relationships.

Available on the FOREIGNER album ‘Agent Provocateur’ via Atlantic Records

https://www.foreigneronline.com/


CLIFF RICHARD Some People (1987)

Produced by Alan Tarney who had worked on two of Cliff Richard’s previous albums ‘Wired for Sound’ and ‘I’m No Hero’ as well writing his synth-laden No1 single ‘We Don’t Talk Anymore’, the synth and voice sample swathed backing on ‘Some People’ was held down by a crisp drum machine backbone. It provided serene surroundings that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on an A-HA or CHINA CRISIS track.

Available on the CLIFF RICHARD album ‘Always Guaranteed’ via EMI Music

https://www.cliffrichard.org/


LIZA MINNELLI I Want You Now (1989)

Along with the HI-NRG cover of ‘Losing My Mind’, the dramatic house-infused pop of ‘I Want You Now’ was a signal that ‘Results’ was not to be the usual Liza Minnelli cabaret record. Keen on doing a pop album in contrast with her normal output, Minnelli had particularly liked PET SHOP BOYS ‘Rent’ and Neil Tennant was already a fan, so a likely collaboration was a given with a sophisticated Continental austere being the result…

Available on the LIZA MINNELLI album ‘Results’ via Cherry Red Records

https://www.lizaminnelli.com/


DUSTY SPRINGFIELD Nothing Has Been Proved (1989)

Produced by PET SHOP BOYS, the duo were invited by film producer Stephen Woolley to provide music for ‘Scandal’, a dramatisation of 1963 Profumo affair. With the idea that ‘Nothing Has Been Proved’ should be sung by a star of that time, Dusty Springfield’s performance was complimented with orchestrations by Angelo Badalamenti. The duo would later be asked to return by Woolley to provide music for 1992’s ‘The Crying Game’.

Available on the DUSTY SPRINGFIELD album ‘Reputation’ via Cherry Red Records

https://www.dustyspringfieldofficial.com/


BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN Streets Of Philadelphia (1994)

Written by Bruce Springsteen for film ‘Philadelphia’, ‘Streets Of Philadelphia’ had been intended to be a recording with lead vocals by veteran jazz singer Little Jimmy Scott. But he Springsteen to return to his own vocalled demo with a drum loop and elegiac synths which provided the song with a much more mournful feel in line with the film’s poignant subject matter.

Available on the BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN album ‘Greatest Hits’ via Sony Music

https://brucespringsteen.net/


CHER Believe (1998)

Co-written by Brian Higgins who later made his fortune leading production team XENOMANIA, ‘Believe’ was a musical departure for Cher with a euphoric Europop tune that could have been mistaken for ERASURE. Produced by Mark Taylor and Brian Rawling, it was notable for the robotic overdriven Autotune effect that distorted the vocals by removing the natural portamento slide between pitches in singing.

Available on the CHER album ‘The Greatest Hits’ via Warner Music

https://www.cher.com/


GIRLS ALOUD Love Is Pain (2009)

Having come out on top in ‘Popstars: The Rivals’ in 2002, GIRLS ALOUD had a glittering career with their XENOMANIA produced pop. ‘Love Is Pain’ recalled PET SHOP BOYS in its electropop stylings. Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe, who were working with XENOMANIA at the same time, wrote the song ‘The Loving Kind’ which featured on the same album ‘Out Of Control’.

Available on the GIRLS ALOUD album ‘Out Of Control’ via Polydor Records

https://www.girlsaloud.com/


CHRISTINA AGUILERA Birds Of Prey (2010)

In 2008, there came the surprise news that Christina Aguilera was collaborating with Daniel Hunt and Reuben Wu of LADYTRON. Fast forward to 2010 and the two finished tracks ‘Birds Of Prey’ and ‘Little Dreamer’ were relegated to bonus track status on the ‘Bionic’ album. Free of her oral gymnastics, Aguilera showed great restraint on ‘Bird Of Prey’ over a dreamy synthetic soundscape with a hypnotic Middle Eastern feel.

Available on the CHRISTINA AGUILERA album ‘Bionic’ (Deluxe Edition) via RCA

https://www.christinaaguilera.com/


TAKE THAT Flowerbed (2010)

Something of an electronic gem, ‘Flowerbed’ was the hidden track on the reunited TAKE THAT’s Stuart Price produced opus ‘Progress’. Beginning with soothing vocoder, Jason Orange came over in the manner of Al Stewart in a rare lead vocal. Over a dreamy backing track that possessed the glacial Nordic quality of RÖYKSOPP, the sprinkling of textural ambience built to a metronomic percussive climax.

Available on the TAKE THAT album ‘Progress’ via RCA

https://takethat.com/


TAYLOR SWIFT Style (2014)

An established New Country starlet, Taylor Swift went the full pop route with an album named after the year of her birth. Despite pressure from her label to include fiddles into songs that were predominantly electronically derived, there was the CHVRCHES aping ‘Out Of The Woods’ but ‘Style’ took the lead from synthwave in a song allegedly about her fletting romance with a certain member of NEW DIRECTION.

Available on the TAYLOR SWIFT album ‘1989’ via Big Machine

https://www.taylorswift.com/


ED SHEERAN Overpass Graffiti (2021)

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK mistook this Ed Sheeran popwave number for Ollie Wride when it was played on BBC Radio 2. A far cry from the dreadful ‘Galway Girl’ or the R ‘n’ B of ‘Sing’, ‘Overpass Graffiti’ was swathed in synths and with its snappy stuttering beat and engaging chorus, it brought to mind another artist of a more traditional bent, Don Henley of THE EAGLES and his huge hit ‘The Boys Of Summer’.

Available on the ED SHEERAN album ‘=’ via Atlantic Records

http://edsheeran.com


Text by Chi Ming Lai
11 November 2023

PET SHOP BOYS Hotspot


In 2019, sarcastic remarks about the current political situation found themselves on the ‘Agenda’, with the tongue-in-cheek EP blowing raspberries at Trump, Gove and other assorted political airheads, as well as wittily observed relationships with social media.

PET SHOP BOYS have enjoyed a lifetime spanning career, never shying from things in the spotlight, crudely observed realities and the knowhow of song writing.

Somehow they managed to stay fresh and down to earth with quality music creation, shadowing many of their contemporaries and staying on top.

The mind blowing intellect of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe has always shined through with well written lyrics, accompanied by assorted shades of pop, placing them in the enviable commercial spots often unachievable to other synth acts.

So 2020 plugs into the ‘Hotspot’ with the opus number fourteen, captured in the renowned Hansa Studios in Berlin, famous for recordings by legends such as DAVID BOWIE, BRIAN ENO, NICK CAVE and DEPECHE MODE. PSB have been using the legendary recording hotspot for some years now, and the latest production is no exception.

The album is culminating the trilogy of long players worked on by Stuart Price, who needs no introduction, having collaborated with a glorious assortment of artists spanning from Madonna, through NEW ORDER, KYLIE MINOGUE, SEAL or GWEN STEFANI, not to mention his own monikers of ZOOT WOMAN, LES RYTHMES DIGITALES or MAN WITH GUITAR.

Since ‘Electric’ and ‘Super’ went down very well, with both the former and the latter granting PSB the top chart positions again, the expectations are high for ‘Hotspot’, which was heralded by the first single as early as September last year.

‘Dreamland’ featuring London’s younger pop specialists YEARS & YEARS, captures the quintessential sound which listeners have grown to love from the duo, elevated to a new age of electronica, packed with quality dance sequences and superb hooks. The new generation of synth lovers is emerging, while the weathered fans of all things electric learn to appreciate the works of younger masters.

The acoustic guitar laced second single, ‘Burning The Heather’ introduces a somewhat slower approach to matters, sitting somewhere between ‘Numb’ and ‘My October Symphony’, with the first guitarist of SUEDE, Bernard Butler lending a hand on the strings.

The track makes an exception from being recorded in Berlin as it was put down on tape at RAK Studios in London.

‘Monkey Business’ is deliciously easy going and funky, lusciously marrying the synth lines of Detroit techno; it’s filled with neon lights, LSD induced comas and gruelling dance sequences. Looking for PET SHOP BOYS’ answer to GEORGE MICHAEL’s ‘Outside’, then look no further.

‘Will-o-the-Wisp’ couldn’t be more of an opener; with its catchy hooks and modern twists, it summarises what the duo have always been about: serious dance tunes, written like no other. Oh and Tennant does his “speaking” bit in it too!

The birds are chirping, the sun is shining and the sky is blue in ‘You Are The One’, which is a quintessential PSB love song, while ‘Happy People’ sounds super vintage with the piano à la ‘Left To My Own Devices’, because whose stuff is better to copy than your own! They do end it with a nice dose of wave table synthesis though.

A further ballad ‘Hoping For A Miracle’ tells a story of a failed individual in the fast-paced world of today, over stunning arpeggios, tear jerking strings and touching melodies, an area where Tennant and Lowe have always excelled.

‘I Don’t Wanna’ is brimming with synth in various tempos, as well as electronically altered vocals but in comparison, ‘Only The Dark’ glides over much simpler musical inclusions, proving one doesn’t need overcomplicated concoctions to get to the peak of greatness.

The closing ‘Wedding In Berlin’ picks up the tempo again, as the boys like to leave their listeners dancing. If you thought one couldn’t incorporate wedding bells into a club dance track, you were wrong. They’re getting married “no matter if you’re straight or gay” in a rising Love Parade beat, slowing down to a further inclusion of wave.

It is fair to say that the conclusion to Price’s trilogy is most likely going to enhance the chart positions for PET SHOP BOYS, but whether one cares for enviable listings or not, ‘Hotspot’ is bang on the money and further strengthens their top status, showing off the never ending prowess of Tennant and Lowe’s capabilities.

This album would easily sit somewhere between ‘Bilingual’ and ‘Nightlife’, proving that the good old PSB will never go out of date.


‘Hotspot’ is available now via x2 Recordings in CD, vinyl, cassette and digital formats

PET SHOP BOYS 2020 UK ‘Dreamworld’ tour includes:

London O2 Arena (28th May), Manchester Arena (29th May), Birmingham Resorts World Arena (30th May), Bournemouth BIC Arena (2nd June), Cardiff Motorpoint Arena (3rd June), Newcastle Utilita Arena (5th June), Saturday Glasgow SSE Hydro (6th June)

http://www.petshopboys.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/petshopboys/

https://twitter.com/petshopboys

https://www.instagram.com/petshopboys/

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/jan/24/pet-shop-boys-the-acoustic-guitar-should-be-banned


Text by Monika Izabela Trigwell
Photos by Alex Lake
24th January 2020

30 Lost Art School Bops Of The Digital Era

Here are 30 songs which may have escaped attention as the world went grunge and then had an ongoing hangover in the wake of Britpop.

Denied mainstream recognition and now lost when looking from a UK perspective even within the dwindling synth music community, these offerings come from artists who have mostly remained in total obscurity.

However, some are highly established in their own right, albeit not necessarily within the electronic pop field while others have drifted away.

As with the 30 Lost Obscure Alternatives Of The 45 RPM Era feature, acts who have since been featured on ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK like ARTHUR & MARTHA, DE/VISION, ONE DOVE, PEACH, WOLFSHEIM and YOUNGER YOUNGER 28s have not been included on this list.

Starting from 1992 when the CD established itself as the dominant format to the year before ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK came into being, here are 30 Lost Art School Bops listed by year and then in alphabetical order…


VEGAS Walk Into The Wind (1992)

What happens when you cross FUN BOY THREE, EURYTHMICS and SHAKESPEARS SISTER? This lovely under rated electro-reggae tune featuring Terry Hall, David A Stewart and Siobhan Fahey! VEGAS was a one-off project when Hall and Stewart were between bands, with the former’s forlorn opening gambit of “You have to learn to love by loving” more than suiting the latter’s lush cinematic backdrop on the captivating noir of ‘Walk Into The Wind’.

Available on the album ‘Vegas’ via RCA Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/1343740-Vegas-8


SVEN VÄTH L’Esperanza (1993)

Sven Väth is a Frankfurt based DJ whose his career started in 1982. Mixmag rated his album ‘Accident In Paradise’ one of the Top 50 dance albums of all time. From that, this synthpopped remix of its most accessible track ‘L’Esperanza’ recalled ‘Magic Fly’ by SPACE and captured the tranquillity of a swim with dolphins. The melodies sang despite the tune being totally instrumental while the groove drove along without being intrusive.

Available on the single ‘L’Esperanza’ via Eye Q / WEA Records

https://www.facebook.com/SvenVaethOfficial/


2WO THIRD3 Hear Me Calling (1994)

Hear Me Calling captured the spirit of early ultrapop DEPECHE MODE and even had CULTURE CLUB backing singer Helen Terry thrown into the mix of this infectiously catchy number. Although a publicly a trio, there was a silent fourth songwriting member who was represented by a cartoon character called Biff in the band’s promotional material. Biff was actually Richard Stannard who has since written songs for KYLIE MINOGUE, LITTLE BOOTS, MARINA & THE DIAMONDS and SPICE GIRLS.

Available on the single ‘Hear Me Calling’ via Epic Records

http://www.discogs.com/artist/2wo+Third3


INTASTELLA Grandmaster (1996)

INTASTELLA were formally indie rockers LAUGH, until they discovered singer Stella Grundy  and adapted their sound to a more dance-orientated style in a vein not dissimilar from fellow Mancunian’s HAPPY MONDAYS. Having had a minor hit with the SAINT ETIENNE flavoured cover of the FRANK VALLI Northern Soul favourite, the funkier electrovibe  of ‘Grandmaster’ was the follow-up and later featured on the soundtrack of the ‘9½ Weeks’ sequel ‘Love In Paris’.

Available on the album ‘What You Gonna Do’ via Planet 3 Records

https://www.facebook.com/Intastellastellagrundy/


INAURA Soap Opera (1996)

INAURA combined NINE INCH NAILS and DURAN DURAN, with the latter every much in mind when the band were signed to EMI. Produced by Steve Osborne, the metallic finish of ‘Soap Opera’ gave a rock edge to the electronically driven sound. But despite securing a support slot with THE HUMAN LEAGUE, the band got emboiled in internal record company politics with EMI actively trying to bury the band. The shelved album ‘One Million Smiles’ eventually secured an independent release in 1998.

Available on the album ‘One Million Smiles’ via ORG Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/61052-Inaura


ORLANDO Just For A Second (1996)

Melody Maker’s Simon Price announced the arrival of a new scene of New Romantic revivalists, with a bold headline declaring “ROMO – The Future Pop Explosion!”; from these Romantic Modernists came ORLANDO who combined stylish, synthesized dance-pop with a love of classic songwriting. ‘Just For A Second’ was their best song, with elements of PET SHOP BOYS euphoric flavour as reimagined by the boy bands of the day, combined with an emotive lyrical backdrop.

Available on the album ‘Passive Soul’ via Blanco Y Negro Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/125280-Orlando-4


MONO Life In Mono (1996)

MONO were Siobhan de Maré and Martin Virgo, who found their cinematic sound lumped in with trip hop movement that spawned SNEAKER PIMPS and PORTISHEAD. A mysterious Gallic flavour crossed with samples from John Barry’s soundtrack to ‘The Ipcress File’ provided the song’s spy drama chill. The track was later incorporated into a contemporary film adaptation  of ‘Great Expectations’ which starred Ethan Hawke, Gwyneth Paltrow and Hank Azaria. SPICE GIRLS’ Emma Bunton recorded a cover of it in 2006.

Available on the single ‘Life in Mono’ via Echo Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/1564-Mono


SEXUS The Official End Of It All (1996)

Also seen as part of the Romo movement were SEXUS, a Manchester duo comprising of David Savage and Paul Southern  Signed by ZTT, ‘The Official End Of It All’ was their second single and recalled ELECTRONIC’s ‘Getting Away With It’. The pair recorded a full album with Trevor Horn but it remains unmixed and unreleased. The duo would later team up again musically under the name PSYCHODELICS.

Available on the single ‘The Official End Of It All’ via ZTT Records

http://www.psychodelicates.com/sexus.htm


BROADCAST Come On Let’s Go (2000)

The late Trish Keenan’s ice maiden cool was instrumental to BROADCAST’s cognoscenti appeal and with their experimental electronica, they won many fans among the cognoscenti. ‘Come On Let’s Go’ was their most accessible offering with its spy drama feel, vintage organic textures and Keenan’s sweet nonchalant vocal tones. Futuristic yet with a Cold War chill, this pushed all the tender buttons. The band were a favourite of Matt Groening, creator of ‘The Simpsons’.

Available on the album ‘The Noise Made By People’ via Warp Records

http://warp.net/records/broadcast


QUEEN OF JAPAN I Was Made For Loving You (2000)

QUEEN OF JAPAN were a colourful European trio consisting of singer Koneko alongside eccentric producers Jo Ashito and Jason Arigato. Specialising in dance covers of an incongruous origin like JOHN LENNON and QUEEN, their fun electronic sound took on a distinct sinister turn with this brilliant synthesized interpretation of rock legends KISS’ neo-discofied 1977 anthem. The track gained prominence after being included as part of 2 MANY DJ’s ‘As Heard On Radio Soulwax Part 2’ DJ set in 2003.

Available on the album ‘Headrush’ via Echohammer Records

http://www.queenofjapan.net


DOT ALLISON Substance (2002)

Following Ms Allison’s pop flavoured debut album ‘Afterglow’ in 1999 and prior to her ‘Aftersun’ collaboration with MASSIVE ATTACK, the former ONE DOVE vocalist experimented with some lo-fi electro sounds alongside some more folky acoustic excursions on her album ‘We Are Science’. Playing squelch games over stuttering percussive loops, Allison’s enigmatic breathy vocal style almost acts as another instrument in a mildly hallucinogenic dance fashion.

Available on the album ‘We Are Science’ via Mantra Recordings

http://www.dotallison.com


THE DEVILS Big Store (2002)

Before Nick Rhodes got involved in the full DURAN DURAN reunion, he and fellow founder member Stephen TIN TIN Duffy dusted off a few of the pre-Le Bon demos. The results show how avant pop the original DURAN DURAN concept was with Big Store sounding like Moroder crossed with Iggy Pop! With a camp cynical snarl of “I like going shopping …shopping in the big store”, how great this must have sounded at Barberella’s back in the day!

Available on the album ‘Dark Circles’ via Tape Modern Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/214868-The-Devils


MANNEQUIN Take Me To The Club (2003)

Apparently based on true events, ‘Party Monster’ starring Macaulay Culkin, Seth Green and Chlӧe Savigny was effectively ‘Electroclash – The Movie’; ‘Take Me To The Club’, written and produced by Bruno Coviell, captured the tension and euphoria of nightlife. Electrofied slap bass and sinister sequences added some gothic grandeur to the aural hedonism. “I only feel right under bright lights… take me to the club” was the profound proclamation!

Available on the album ‘Party Monster’ (V/A) via TVT Soundtrax

https://www.facebook.com/partymonsterfan


SYNTAX Pray (2003)

‘I Feel Love’ meets THE PSYCHEDELIC FURS on this duo’s amazing debut single, SYNTAX consisted of Jan Burton and ex-FLUKE member Mike Tournier. The 8 minute full length version possessed a pulsing hypnotic quality while spacey Sci-Fi synths and full-fat sequences recalled a bygone disco age but updating the template for a new century. Dark but immensely danceable!

Available on the album ‘Meccano Mind’ via Illustrious/Sony Music

http://www.syntax.uk.com/


WHITE TOWN Whenever I Say Hello (2003)

WHITE TOWN aka Jyoti Mishra had a freak No1 hit with ‘Your Woman’ in 1997 but kept a low profile, carving out an independent musical career with little regard for public profile. Influenced by his heroes OMD and DEPECHE MODE, ‘Whenever I Say Hello’ first appeared on Ninth Wave’s ‘Electricity 2’ compilation and was the highlight of his album ‘Don’t Mention The War’, eventually released in 2006. A wonderful lonely paean to lost love, this does sound like ‘Things You Said’ reimagined for ‘A Broken Frame’.

Available on the album ‘Don’t Mention The War’ via Bzangy Records

http://www.whitetown.co.uk


DARREN HAYES I Like The Way (2004)

Sony Music were none too happy when the former SAVAGE GARDEN front man veered from his drippy ballads to go electro! ‘I Like The Way’ was the highlight from his album ‘The Tension & The Spark’, the title of which came from the chorus of this spiky piece of synthpop. Like ERASURE gone all aggressive if you can believe that, Hayes and Sony Music parted ways following this fuzzy excursion.

Available on the album ‘The Tension & The Spark’ via Sony Music

http://www.darrenhayes.com


VIC TWENTY Txt Msg (2004)

THE great lost act of the synthesizer revival has to be VIC TWENTY. Blowing away ERASURE while supporting them on their muted covers tour, Piney Gir and Adrian Morris showed promise with their cartoon-like girl/boy synthpop. One of the highlights in their live set was an ironic electronic reconstruction of ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’. Released on Mute, ‘Text Msg’ was their only single as a duo, a quirky narrative of the modern generation who can only dump hapless lovers by mobile phone.

Available on the single ‘Txt Msg’ via Mute Records

http://www.victwenty.free-online.co.uk


DELAYS Valentine (2005)

After the succes of  THE KILLERS, indie bands were starting to embrace synths again and DELAYS almost went the full hog with this Trevor Horn assisted electronic disco number. The pulsing sequences and syncopated rhythm section were just pure DURAN DURAN, while Greg Gilbert’s raspy falsetto in the soaring chorus and choppy guitar ensured the band weren’t totally detached from their roots.

Available on the single ‘Valentine’ via Rough Trade Records

http://www.thedelays.co.uk


JULIET Avalon (2005)

Before he worked with MADONNA, NEW ORDER, THE KILLERS, KYLIE MINOGUE, TAKE THAT and PET SHOP BOYS, Stuart Price produced and co-wrote most of the only album by Philadelphia songstress Juliet Richardson. Driven by a heavy percussive mantra coupled to a deep bass rumble, her sultry soulful vocals worked well within the cool electro backing to provide a wonderful sexually charged atmosphere. Richardson is now a yoga teacher with a young family.

Available on the album ‘Random Order’ via Virgin Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/93024-Juliet


THE MODERN Jane Falls Down (2005)

This promising band took the best of New Romantic thrill and a tight Stephen Hague production for a brilliant single with a killer chorus and solid beats, reinforced by a big reverberating bassline. Despite a support slot with HEAVEN 17, a chart scandal involving over enthusiastic management on their second single ‘Industry’ destroyed all momentum and the band retreated, re-emerging later as MATINEE CLUB before becoming THE MODERN again! Nathan Cooper has since reappeared as KID KASIO.

Available on the single ‘Jane Falls Down’ via Universal Music

https://www.themodernband.com/


LUKE HAINES Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop – Richard X Mix (2006)

Once referred to as the Adolf Hitler of Britpop by the music press, Luke Haines’ memoir ‘Bad Vibes: Britpop & My Part In Its Downfall’ suggested that BLUR’s Damon Alban deserved to be nominated for that title far more! An installation of danceable pop terrorism by THE AUTEURS and BLACK BOX RECORDER leader, with a full fat octave driven electro mix by Richard X, this gleefully satirised the Shoreditch club scene with a bitter attack on its array of poseurs.

Available on the single ‘Going Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop’ via Fantastic Plastic

http://www.lukehaines.co.uk


PROTOCOL Love Is My Drug (2006)

PROTOCOL had some Romo flair and despite being almost entirely based on ‘Atomic’ by BLONDIE, second single ‘Where’s The Pleasure?’ secured that all important radio play. But despite this, Polydor pulled the plug on their excellent follow-up ‘Love Is My Drug’ and the promising debut album ‘Rules Of Engagement’ despite sending out promos to the press and filming a promo video. Lead singer John Pritchard took another punt at stardom by participating in the 2013 series of ‘The Voice’.

Available on the album ‘Rules Of Engagement’ via https://protocoluk.bandcamp.com/

https://rkukmedia.co.uk/Protocol/


STEFY Chelsea (2006)

This was an excellent ‘Sweet Dreams’ pastiche from vocalist Stefy Rae and producer Jimmy Harry. Aimed at the teen pop market with its Orange County brat subject matter, ‘Chelsea’ was more sophisticated than it appeared and was probably three years ahead of its time. Co-written by the soon-to-be ubiquitous producer Greg Kurstin and accompanied by a video featuring an Adam West cameo, if this had come out in 2009, it probably would have been a Top 10 hit.

Available on the album ‘The Orange Album’ via Wind-Up Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/558653-Stefy-2


DEAD DISCO You’re Out (2007)

Victoria Hesketh before she was LITTLE BOOTS, she came to together with Lucy Catherwood and Marie France at Leeds University to produce a series of well-received spikey pop numbers before splitting. Their final single ‘You’re Out’ was produced by Greg Kurstin and the start of a more electronic sound in the mix. Treated guitars, fuzzy bass and subtle synths all merged together in a feisty cocktail and the seed of the raw excitement found its way into songs like ‘Meddle’.

Available on the single ‘You’re Out’ via 679/Atlantic Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/526693-Dead-Disco


FROST Sleepwalker (2007)

Consisting of Aggie Peterson and Per Martinsen, FROST have described their music as upbeat space-pop.  This was beautiful electronic dance music from the enigmatic Norwegian duo with Peterson’s soaring soprano and the gorgeous synth vibrato putting minds into a marvellous trance. ‘Sleepwalker’ was the sort of song you would want to play at a rave in the snow! their cool cover of OMD’s ‘Messages’, from the ‘Love! Revolution’ album which ‘Sleepwalker’ came, is also a worthy listen.

Available on the album ‘Love! Revolution!’ via Frost World Recordings

http://www.frostworld.no


HEARTBREAK We’re Back (2008)

Italo disco was a much maligned form of electro kitsch but was rooted in GIORGIO MORODER which eventually influenced NEW ORDER and PET SHOP BOYS; Anglo-Argentine duo HEARTBREAK revived the genre, complete with accents, “wo-woah-ah” chants and heavy dance rhythms. On great catchy songs such as ‘We’re Back’, the sweaty impassioned charisma of vocalist Sebastian Muravchik was more than convincing while Ali Renault provided the meaty electronic backing.

Available on the album ‘Lies’ via Lex Records

http://lexprojects.com/releases/heartbreak-lies/


POLARKREIS 18  The Colour Of Snow (2008)

The Dresden sextet were a dreamy but epic cross between A-HA and SIGUR RÓS. Singer Felix Räuber’s falsetto voice polarised but the frantic driven tempo, dramatic electronic strings and rousing melancholic chorus of ‘The Colour Of Snow’ made it a fine follow-up their German No1 ‘Allein Allein’ and gave the band enough of a reputation to be invited to support DEPECHE MODE at their Leipzig gigs in 2009.

Available on the album ‘The Colour of Snow’ via Vertigo Records

http://www.polarkreis18.de


RED BLOODED WOMEN You Made Your Bed (2008)

Pure octave shift disco heaven on this ode to the IKEA generation by modern electronic take on BANANARAMA. Despite being all under 25, these three ladies grew up to the sound of the synthesizer and learned to dance to the beat of electronic drums via their mothers’ ERASURE and A-HA singles. Paying girl group homage to both YAZOO and DEPECHE MODE, RED BLOODED WOMEN sounded not unlike GIRLS ALOUD produced by Daniel Miller!

Available on the album ‘Electronically Yours Vol 1’ (V/A) via Undo Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/1202070-Red-Blooded-Women


KATSEN Florian (2009)

KATSEN were a short lived Brighton duo comprising of Donna Grimaldi and Chris Blackburn who crossed CRYSTAL CASTLES with YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA for their own brand of quirky synthpop. ‘Florian’ with its mournful melodica line inspired by ‘Kommetenmelodie 2’ was yet another in a tradition of songs dedicated to the enigmatic quiet man of KRAFTWERK which have included ‘V2 Schneider’ and ‘Rolf & Florian Go Hawaiian’ (sic).

Available on the album ‘It Hertz!’ via Thee Sheffield Phonographic Corporation

http://katsen.com/


SPUTNIKO! The Google Song (2009)

SPUTNIKO! (real name Hiromi Ozaki) showcased her brand of laptop pop around London where she was based. “Exploring intersections between technology and popular culture” as reflected by titles such as ‘The Skype Song’ and ‘The Mixi Song’, her most immediate track has been ‘The Google Song’, a story of love in the modern computer age. Too shy to approach the object of her desire, she simply went home to her faithful laptop and googled him!! “I like you” she proclaimed. It was tremendously catchy too!

Available on the DVD ‘Parakonpe 3000’ via 360° Records

http://sputniko.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
29th September 2017

PET SHOP BOYS Super

petshopboys-superIt is debatable whether number thirteen will be lucky or not so much for PET SHOP BOYS, but after the album number twelve, ‘Electric’ in 2013, with its return to the good old, if ever so slightly camp (of course!) electronica, one expects perfection.

The predecessor to ‘Electric’, ‘Elysium’, nearly put the group alongside the likes of DEPECHE MODE, with their dwindling reputation and the general feeling that one cannot expect a decent long player anymore. ‘Elysium’ was stripped of the energy and the vitality, one has grown to expect from the London duo.

‘Electric’ raised the bar, mainly thanks to the superb production by Stuart Price, restoring the belief that PSB still had it. And now comes ‘Super’. Also produced by Price, well known for his collaborations with MADONNA, HURTS, SCISSOR SISTERS, KYLIE MINOGUE and GWEN STEFANI amongst many others, together with ‘Electric’, ‘Super’ is another comeback to the inherent PET SHOP BOYS that has been around since their first outing ‘Please’.

Price, who was the musical director on PSB’s ‘Pandemonium Tour’, and toured with the duo during showcasing ‘Electric’, has added a fresh approach to the established act that Tennant and Lowe are.

‘Happiness’ kicks off the club tracks collection with the ever optimistic lyric “it’s a long way to happiness, it’s a long way to go, but I’m gonna get there, boy, the only way I know”; against all odds they’re trying to keep good old pop alive. Excellently mixed, layered sounds burst into a comatose of euphoria, marking a great start to something worth pursuing.

‘The Pop Kids’ descends, being a quintessential PET SHOP BOYS track; carefree, but complicated, resembling the story of ‘Being Boring’ – the youth who never missed an opportunity for classy fun. Tennant and Lowe have never changed, they remain “the pop kids”.

‘Twenty-something’ tells a further tale which the duo are celebrated for. Their story telling tracks have become a kind of delicacy and this time, it’s about Londoners in their prime of life, “twenty-something hard to beat… feel the heat” within a slower paced beat.

‘Groovy’ picks up the tempo once again, leading onto ‘Dictator Decides’, which marks another of the politically laced numbers that the PSB boys do so well. Like their previous gems such as ‘Don Juan’ or ‘I Get Along’, this one hits the truth, that any politician is just a regular person underneath, sometimes wanting to live a normal life; a life without having to make decisions influencing nations. The plea to end his life to stop the tyranny clearly rings in “if you get rid of me we can all be free”.

petshopboys2016The instrumental ‘Pazzo’ introduces the next track, ‘Inner Sanctum’ which reacts to German techno pop scene based in Berlin’s Berghain, the ultimate night club with its cavernous main room. The track is heavy, punchy and dizzy, perfect for a pounds, shillings and pence induced rave.

‘Undertow’, ‘Burn’ and ‘Say It To Me’ hold onto the disco idea once more, with the latter being somewhat of an excellently executed ‘Domino Dancing’ style dance piece.

In the realm of fast paced tracks, ‘Sad Robot World’ is the ballad this album needs as a slow coma, and it is actually about robots! The final credit, ‘Into Thin Air’ calls for a collective disappearance to escape the mundanity, to “create new identities and fly into the unknown, we’ll vanish no one would know where”. Being different isn’t always easy; it creates misunderstandings and unnecessary pain, therefore the idea of avoidance and escapism sounds inviting.

The kings of pop, having turned out the biggest synth anthems over the last thirty years, have proven again that given the correct production, their mission can be accomplished.

No fillers, no ballads (which according to Lowe are to be featured on the next Price produced album), no nonsense… it’s a notion many of their contemporaries should adhere to.

Pop isn’t dead yet. With albums like ‘Super’ it never will be.

Never mind their age, PET SHOP BOYS are the eternal “pop kids” and their music reinvents itself in the best possible way. ‘Super’ is SUPER!


‘Super’ is released by in CD, vinyl and digital formats

http://www.petshopboys.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/petshopboys/

https://twitter.com/petshopboys


Text by Monika Izabela Goss
1st April 2016

NEW ORDER Music Complete

Band break-ups, although always problematic, can have a polarising, but often surprisingly positive musical effect on those involved.

The well-documented HUMAN LEAGUE Mark I split, where Martyn Ware was effectively fired from his own band, motivated him, Ian Craig Marsh and new vocalist Glenn Gregory to strive to make an album which was better than the one Philip Oakey’s new version of the band was creating. Although arguably in terms of sales and critical acclaim they didn’t, it still set HEAVEN 17 on their way and certainly didn’t harm their future success.

The troubles in the NEW ORDER camp and the acrimony between Peter Hook and his ex-bandmates have managed to rack up plenty of column inches, reaching a nadir with Hook describing returning keyboard player Gillian Gilbert as a “wonky table leg”, to which she rather more subtly and rightly retorted “I’m on all the best records aren’t I?”. What the split has done though, is allow Hook to tour pretty constantly for the last five years, showcasing a mixture of JOY DIVISION and NEW ORDER material which to his frustration, the band (when he was in it) seldom played.

So now with a new record deal with Mute, it’s an ideal opportunity for Bernard Sumner and his colleagues (old and new) to prove that after a couple of “so-so” albums, that they still have some creative fire left in them and are able to function without their founder member and bassist.

The lead-off single and album opener ‘Restless’ certainly didn’t bode too optimistically for ‘Music Complete’, although in the context of the album is certainly more of a grower and takes a few listens to appreciate its charms. Next up is THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS’ Tom Rowlands produced ‘Singularity’, whose sequencers recall ‘Temptation’ and also features some welcome KRAFTWERK-ian percussion sounds and unhinged resonant synth squeals throughout. The melodic synths and half-time drum patterns used are refreshing for a track which doesn’t try to pander to any particular genre.

‘Plastic’, which features Elly Jackson aka LA ROUX, revolves around some even more prominent Moroder-ish sequencing with the sort of girly backing vocals which first made an appearance on ‘Crystal’. A Hooky soundalike bassline by replacement Tom Chapman makes an appearance midway which is sure to wind up the ex-bassist and an extended electronic middle section showcases the first significant programmed drum machine work on the album.

‘Tutti Frutti’, with its pitched down Italian vocal, initially recalls ‘Fine Time’ from ‘Technique’ and once the song skips past its jaunty ‘Relax’-style intro, proves itself to be a classic NEW ORDER song. This time, Elly Jackson’s guest vocals compliment Sumner’s perfectly, whose own phrasing during the song’s verse sections showcases a previously unheard lazy vocal delivery from the frontman and includes the classic line “where every scholar means a dollar”. The song’s middle section and ending features a wonderfully orchestrated string section, throws in an acid house drum pattern for good measure and at its climax, some more additional low pitched vocals (sampled from a very suspect Italian game show) which unfortunately could prove the deal breaker for some.

Photo by Nick Wilson

‘People On The High Line’ with its ultra-funky bass and guitar combination, starts rather worryingly like ‘Club Tropicana’ by WHAM! before descending into a rather forgettable ‘dad house’ piano track – Elly Jackson again guests here. ‘Stray Dog’ is one long IGGY POP monologue which is based upon a poem that Sumner constructed and is surely a wasted opportunity – a sung vocal performance would certainly have proved more intriguing.

‘Academic’ showcases the band-style NEW ORDER sound and is a highlight of ‘Music Complete’; it effortlessly glides past and features some classically direct Sumner guitar which is missed elsewhere on the album. ‘Music Complete’ closer, ‘Superheated’ is a Stuart Price production and features Brandon Flowers from THE KILLERS on vocals – it’s a rather lightweight uptempo conclusion and features more string orchestration. Yet again, like other songs here, it seems to miss Sumner’s trademark guitar.

What this album DOES have in its favour is that it doesn’t try overly hard to win you over. Whereas the recent DURAN DURAN album (with its myriad of guest vocalists and producers) was the musical equivalent of a tired old dog trying to hump your leg to get your attention, ‘Music Complete’ is a far more subtle proposition and is far better for it.

Although very electronic in places, there is still a real band dynamic here, especially with the use of Stephen Morris‘ drumming and the implementation of producers, which has generally helped rather than hinder the creative process. Though not a classic in comparison with ‘Low-Life’ or ‘Power, Corruption & Lies’, ‘Music Complete’ does in places provide some compelling listening and in many respects is a revitalised, if flawed piece of work.

At the end of the day, what proves ultimately enlightening, is that by the end of the album, Peter Hook’s presence isn’t overly missed. Tom Chapman ably replicates his sound (albeit mixed slightly lower in the songs here) and although hardcore fans will perpetually scream “No Hooky, no New Order!”, ‘Music Complete’ is a complete and musically coherent enough product without him.


‘Music Complete’ is released by Mute Artists in CD, clear vinyl LP, vinyl box set and download formats

http://www.neworder.com/

https://www.facebook.com/NewOrderOfficial

http://mute.com/artists/new-order

https://newordertracks.wordpress.com


Text by Paul Boddy
28th September 2015

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