Marsheaux seem to have become the darlings of the world of synthpop blogs, I think mainly because they meet the key requirements of (a) being female and (b) playing synthesizers. It’s tempting to wonder therefore whether I should resist joining their bandwagon, but the trouble is, they’re very very good.
I’m struggling to remember exactly how I first came across them – it was definitely thanks to the internet, but I don’t remember whether it was thanks to a blog or another band’s forum. Either way, it was around the time of the release of their second album Peeka Boo (2007), when suddenly the entire internet seemed to know who they were and what they were about. I bought the first two albums, and they blew me away.
The first, E-bay Queen (2004), is the less perfect of the two, but has a wonderful pop simplicity, with an endless string of beautiful pop songs containing nods to their own influences. For the Europhiles among us, there’s even a track in Greek, Όλα Γυρίζουν (yes, I typed that out all by myself).
What the first may lack in terms of perfection, the follow-up Peeka Boo definitely has. There simply isn’t a duff track on the whole album, so it would be unfair to even single out any of the tracks on there.
They returned in 2009 with their third album Lumineux Noir, which for me was where the bubble burst. Maybe I just came with too high expectations, and it’s definitely not fair to suggest that it’s in any way a bad album, but neither does it grab you in the way that Peeka Boo did. The highlights – Breakthrough and Radial Emotion – are let down slightly by the less good tracks and the sadly unnecessary second disc.
Despite this, it’s definitely disappointing that they’ve remained silent for the last three years, and I was very pleased to receive an email from their record company offering me the chance to buy the new compilation E-bay Queen Is Dead directly from them.
The back story for the album is probably fascinating in itself – their blog suggests they weren’t very keen to release it at all, so you’re left wondering if gargantuan record company EMI are to be thanked. But unwilling though Marsheaux may have been, E-Bay Queen Is Dead serves as a welcome reappraisal of their career to date.
The collection kicks off with Bizarre Love Duo, the wonderfully named b-side to the 2008 single Ghost, before launching into a couple of early demos. Their wonderful 2010 cover of Eyes Without a Face is the obvious highlight, and the new rejected album tracks which follow it are interesting, if slightly disappointing. The covers of Empire State Human, Regret and She’s Leaving are welcome, and the rest of the album is solid, if somewhat unexciting.
Obvious omissions are their early compilation covers New Life and Emis Forame to Himona Anixiatika, but these are still widely available (and definitely worth tracking down).
We should all still look forward to their forthcoming fourth album, which is due very soon, and E-bay Queen Is Dead serves as useful revision, but Sadly either my expectations are always set too high to ever enjoy Marsheaux fully again, or it’s not the most inspiring collection on the planet.
The full album can be downloaded from iTunes here.