Sunday, September 07, 2008

Electronic "Electronic" (1991)

1. Idiot Country
2. Reality
3. Tighten Up
4. The Patience Of A Saint
5. Getting Away With It
6. Gangster
7. Soviet
8. Get The Message
9. Try All You Want
10. Some Distant Memory
11. Feel Every Beat

It’s a pity Electronic didn’t seem to realise what a brilliant pop group they were. Their second and third albums were huge disappointments. 1996’s “Raise The Pressure” contained one or two good songs and lots of dated ravey davey bollocks, and “Twisted Tenderness”’s forays into fat ugly rock left this writer a bit cold. “Electronic” though, is genuinely one of the best pop albums of the 1990s. Not that I want to oversell it.

I’ve uploaded the 1994 re-master, which adds in the 1989 single “Getting Away With It”. I will upload all of the tracks on the album because it is so good that I cann’t decide what to leave off. (My connection is a bit slow today so they may appear during the week.) One of the reasons I like this album so much is that it came as such a surprise that Barney out of New Order would make a record with Johnny Marr out of The Smiths. Not only that, but a dancey pop record. “Johnny Marr? Miserable Morrissey’s mate? Making a record you can dance to??” Now we know that Marr had been itching to make records like this all along. Being constrained by Morrissey’s luddite attitude to pop music (“If a synthesizer ever appears on a Smiths record, then I won’t…”) meant that Marr embraced dance culture with some gusto. Around the time of this album’s release Sumner and Marr ranted and raved to journalists about their favourite italo house records and their mutual love of Kraftwerk and The Stooges. But crucially, I think, this record has a pop nous about it which makes it really special. I can’t think of a more fresh, modern, melodic album from 1991 than this one. The Pet Shop Boys collaboration, “Getting Away With It” is obviously brilliant enough, with its wry, self-deprecating lyric and mix of Spanishy guitars, strings and Chic-y bass. But they didn’t even bother to stick that on the album when it was originally released. There was “The Patience Of A Saint” though, which sort of made up for that single’s omission.

Lead off single “Get The Message” is the guitariest thing here, drenched in feedback. Listen out too for the yawning backdrop and some really Sumner-esque lyrics. It was a busy year for Johnny Marr. He also co-wrote and produced Kirsty MacColl’s “Walking In Madison” and a couple of tracks on Billy Bragg’s “Don’t Try This At Home” album (including the single “Sexuality”). Three of the year’s best singles of 1991, right there. It might sound like goalpost-moving but the album’s flaws only add to the fun of it all. Barney’s crap-rapping on the opening and closing tracks spring to mind. But if you’re like me, you’ll want to forgive that. It was only years later that I realised those tracks were inspired by the violence at the Hacienda which was raging at the time. “Gangster” is also great, it dates back to the mid 80s when Sumner started to write for a solo record, and is apparently about a friend of his who had ended up in prison. It’s to Sumner’s credit I think, that his lyrics seem so childish (or do I mean “child-like”?), for example this track’s obvious rhyming: “I’d like to read, I’d like to write/ But where I live I learn to fight”. It might not be Bob Dylan, but it’s touching in its own way. It’s rare that the record has a lull, although towards the end it seems to drift off just slightly. Even taking that into account, Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr are at the top of their game here and this record is as good as anything they have ever done, whether together or apart. It sounds to me for all the world like a sequel to New Order’s “Technique” album. The entire album exudes panache, self-awareness, and humour.

You can find some really good reviews of this album here, here and here which make the point better than I can. “Electronic” is perhaps the best pop album of its time. It’s a pity after that after one more really good single “Disappointed”, the duo disappeared for four years, only to return with the patchy at best “Raise The Pressure”. Apparently Sumner suffered from writer’s block – he even appeared on The Late Show on BBC2, where he was invited to experiment with Prozac and report back to the show about how it affected his creativity. Since then, there’s been New Order’s occasionally good reunion (and now, another apparent break-up), while Marr has been busying himself as usual as a member of Modest Mouse (isn’t “Dashboard” an utterly brilliant record?) and now The Cribs.

P.S. I preferred the single mix of “Feel Every Beat” over the album version. You can see the video for that here. Scroll down this page to see the TOTP performance of the “Disappointed” single from 1992.

P.P.S. By the way I AM trying to upload more tracks from this but I'm having to use internet cafes and it's taking forever. But they'll be up in a few days.