Preview – Moby

Sure as night follows the day, it’s never long before Moby turns up with another new album. The last one Destroyed contained, as always, a lot of very sweet soft tracks and a few absolute gems. I’m sure this one will be the same.

The album Innocents comes out this week, and this was the first track he revealed as part of the album A Case for Shame:

Chart for stowaways – 31 August 2013

Here are this week’s singles:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Vocal
  2. Moist – Far Beyond the Endless
  3. Röyksopp – Ice Machine
  4. Little Boots – Strangers
  5. Front Line Assembly – Ghosts
  6. Little Boots – Broken Record
  7. Goldfrapp – Drew
  8. Napoleon – It’s Not Good to Masturbate
  9. Annie – A&R EP
  10. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – The Future WIll Be Silent

More next week!

Mercury Music Prize 1995-1997

By the mid-1990s, the Mercury Prize was firmly placed as a reliable guide to the albums worth hearing of that year. Certainly there were omissions – indie always seemed to be overrated, while the pop and R&B inclusions were a little unpredictable, but there are still a huge number of great albums in the lists below.

Mercury Music Prize 1995

Nominees:

  • Guy Barker – Into the Blue
  • Elastica – Elastica
  • PJ Harvey – To Bring You My Love
  • Leftfield – Leftism
  • James MacMillan – Seven Last Words from the Cross
  • Van Morrison – Days Like This
  • Oasis – Definitely Maybe
  • Portishead – Dummy
  • Supergrass – I Should Coco
  • Tricky – Maxinquaye

Winner: PortisheadNoel Gallagher famously thought he should have won for Definitely Maybe, but he turned out to be wrong.

Mercury Music Prize 1996

Took place on 10th September 1996.

Nominees:

  • Artists for War Child – Help
  • Black Grape – It’s Great When You’re Straight… Yeah!
  • Peter Maxwell Davies / BBC Philharmonic – The Beltane Fire / Caroline Mathilde
  • Manic Street Preachers – Everything Must Go
  • Mark Morrison – Return of the Mack
  • Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
  • Courtney Pine – Modern Day Jazz Stories
  • Pulp – Different Class
  • Underworld – Second Toughest in the Infants
  • Norma Waterson – Norma Waterson

Winner: Pulp. Presented to Jarvis Cocker, who then immediately handed over the award to Brian Eno and Tony Crean for the Help project.

Mercury Music Prize 1997

Took place on 28th August 1997, at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London.

Nominees:

  • The Chemical Brothers – Dig Your Own Hole
  • Beth Orton – Trailer Park
  • Primal Scream – Vanishing Point
  • The Prodigy – The Fat of the Land
  • Radiohead – OK Computer
  • Roni Size / Reprazent – New Forms
  • Spice Girls – Spice
  • Suede – Coming Up
  • John Tavener – Svyati
  • Mark-Anthony Turnage – Your Rockaby

Winner: Roni Size / Reprazent

Further information

Pet Shop Boys – Relentless

Relentless is that one forgotten oddity, the Pet Shop Boys album that never was. Released two decades ago this week as a special limited edition to Very, it came out just the once and then has never been reissued or revisited since.

Which is a great shame, as it’s really rather good – it could easily have been a full album in its own right. It’s only 35 minutes long in its full form, which is a little on the short side, and twenty years on it is perhaps a little dated now, but nonetheless every track is excellent.

First up is My head is spinning, which after a three minute intro finally builds into a chant of “my head is spinning”, with a bit of maniacal laughter. There’s a point around the five minute mark where you just get a synth arpeggio and kick, and it just sounds absolutely enormous.

There’s really no hint of Relentless on its parent album Very – the closest you get is perhaps Yesterday, when I was mad, or the tail end of Go West, and in an age where limited edition versions of albums were still the exception rather than the norm, it’s difficult to know whether this would have come to a surprise to listeners or whether it was mainly bought by fans.

Forever in love is the one track which you’ll find elsewhere, in its alternative 1992 single form on Very‘s subsequent bonus disc Further Listening 1992-1994. The Relentless version is missing the first verse altogether for editorial reasons, which seems a bit of a shame in a way. When the track finally emerges from its two-and-a-half minute introduction, it’s extremely good – a classic Pet Shop Boys track which could easily have been half of a single with Go West (as was the original intention), or even a pretty euphoric single on its own.

KDX 125 is apparently the name of a motorbike which Chris Lowe liked, and is an extremely rare thing in Pet Shop Boys circles – it’s entirely instrumental. It’s another very good track too – nothing too unusual or groundbreaking, but as one of the central tracks on Relentless it does help to define what the album is, and what it represents. This is a dance album, and makes no apologies for that.

Neither should it – We came from outer space is next, and is another strong track. It’s a little darker and spookier than some of its neighbours, but again it’s a powerful dance piece. It even features a Lowe vocal, which is always a special treat – “something’s not right / I can’t work it out.”

The penultimate track is the pumping The man who has everything, full of dark synth arpeggios and musings about what to give the man who has everything. A “proper” Pet Shop Boys album this may not be, but it is pretty special anyway, and it’s a real shame that it’s been largely forgotten by history.

Finally comes One thing leads to another, which has a rather silly vocal by Neil Tennant‘s normal standards, but apart from that it’s probably the closest this album comes to “traditional” Pet Shop Boys. It’s a great track, and probably the least danceable of the entire mini-album. In another era this might have been a good b-side, but here it closes this disc perfectly.

Relentless may be forgotten, but it’s a great little album, and a great example of what happens when Pet Shop Boys break the shackles of the traditional pop structure, the echoes of which are still being heard today.

Relentless isn’t widely available these days – this Japanese version looks to be your best bet, packaged with a whole pile of b-sides and remixes as well.

Pet Shop Boys – Very

Neil Tennant often refers to Pet Shop Boys as having had an “imperial phase,” some time in the mid-1980s, when everything they released turned to gold. What’s perhaps apparent now is that there wasn’t a single “imperial phase,” as much as a gentle decline into mid-1990s obscurity as they reached what might have been the twilight of their career. Very should be considered imperial – it’s their only number one album to date, and delivered one of their biggest hit singles in the shape of Go West.

It seems an entirely appropriate moment to write this review too, with their latest album Electric having the incredible claim of being their most successful for two decades. Very was their 1993 comeback, released an astonishing twenty years ago this week. Let’s take a listen…

The first track is the totally brilliant Can You Forgive Her? which turns out to be about a gay man coming of age, although honestly I think you can enjoy the song on any number of levels without knowing this. It’s essential, imperial Pet Shop Boys – quite unlike anything that came before it, and yet at the same time entirely theirs. It’s got all their hallmarks, such as the incredibly clever and witty Tennant vocal, and it’s delivered over a slightly naughty 6/8 rhythm. Couple all of that with a video with pointy hats in it, and you really have something incredibly special.

Next up is the sadly inferior original version of I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing, later beaten into fine shape by The Beatmasters. It’s still a sweet song, again with great lyrics, but the production is something of a let-down once you’ve heard the remix. The beautiful Liberation follows. It was a surprising fourth single, but worked extremely well, and given the mood of the song was also a surprisingly big hit. Perhaps the naff house mixes which backed it up helped somehow.

A Different Point of View is classic Pet Shop Boys, in that there’s nothing especially remarkable about it, but somehow it’s a beautiful track, perfectly delivered. This being the early 1990s, it’s got a bit of a house sound to it, but otherwise the production is fairly simple pop – rather overloaded as many Pet Shop Boys tracks are and should be, but nothing too groundbreaking either. Then Dreaming of the Queen brings its hilarious (and now slightly poignant) lyric, again alongside exquisite production.

It’s always nice to have an album with hits that come thick and fast, and Very is one of those. Yesterday, When I Was Mad was the final single, either the fifth or sixth depending on whether you count Absolutely Fabulous, and is a charming and wonderful commentary on the boys’ life in the limelight, with odd tempo changes that seem counterintuitive but work perfectly.

Side B is a little less radio-friendly than Side A, but it still never disappoints. The Theatre is beautiful, perhaps the only song which harks back to the previous album Behaviour (1990). One and One Make Five is a little silly and insubstantial, but it’s also fun and fits in nicely. To Speak is a Sin, a leftover from the Bobby O era prior to Please (1985) is a perfectly delivered description of nervous first encounters.

By Young Offender it’s almost tempting to suggest that we’re deep into filler territory, and the remix is much better (in fairness, it is). But we’re not – this is a dark and deeply atmospheric track which is quite beautiful. And One in a Million would be an exhilarating, uplifting final piece to close the album off.

Would be, if it weren’t for Go West, sitting right on the end, and every bit as glorious as it is camp. It’s almost out of place, and for all the post-Soviet overtones, it is still a little bit silly. But it’s also brilliant, and really should have been number one instead of the infinitely less memorable Boom! Shake the Room!

But wait, even that’s not the end! Leave the CD playing for a few minutes more, and there’s something very special tacked onto the end. Entitled Postscript, or I Believe in Ecstasy, the minute-long bonus track actually features Chris Lowe singing. A totally brilliant ending to a quite exceptional album.

Without a doubt, Very is Pet Shop Boys‘ peak. They had shown their maturity already with the previous album Behaviour, but they were still more than capable of pulling their pop punches and adding a string of hits to their belts. Whatever you think of the subsequent albums, it would be a long time before they hit pop perfection to this degree, and it would be even longer before their commercial success caught up with them to this degree.

You need to own at least one of the two double CD versions of Very – either Very Relentless, which you’ll need to buy second hand, or the more recent Very / Further Listening 1992-1994Ideally both.

Playlist for stowaways – Soundscapes

The fifth Playlist for stowaways is a tribute to the 1990s BBC Radio Derby show Soundscapes. Presented by Ashley Franklin until his removal from the station in February 2000, the show is fondly remembered by fans of electronic music who lived in the East Midlands over the era. Or perhaps it’s only me? Anyway, I put this little mixtape together with a selection of music that he did include, music that he would have included, and music that he should have included.

Ashley talks more about his ousting on his blog here.

This is MFS005, Soundscapes, and it can be listened to here.

  1. Banco de Gaia – Obsidian
  2. Andy Pickford – Lughnasad
  3. Asana – Re-embodiment
  4. Röyksopp – The Fear
  5. Paul Nagle – Shanghai Surprise
  6. The Orb – A Huge Evergrowing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld
  7. Rick Kenton – Red Sky
  8. Moby – Heaven
  9. The Shamen – Xochipili’s Return
  10. Delerium – Amnesia
  11. The Future Sound of London – My Kingdom (Part 5)
  12. Laurie Mayer – Low Floating Territory

Q Awards 1994-1996

After a few years, the Q Awards start to become better documented…

1994

October 1994 saw the fifth Q Awards ceremony. Here’s a couple of pictures of Blur looking happy.

Best Album

Winner: Blur for Parklife

Best Reissue / Compilation

Winner: Various Artists for Tougher Than Tough

Best Live Act

Winner: Pink Floyd

Best Act in the World Today

Winner: R.E.M.

Best New Act

Winner: Oasis

Best Producer

Winner: Stephen Street

Songwriter Award

Winner: Morrissey

Q Inspiration Award

Winner: The Kinks

Merit Award

Winner: U2

1995

October 1995 saw the sixth Q Awards ceremony, hosted by Danny Kelly and Mark Ellen.

BEST ALBUM

Winner: Blur for The Great Escape

BEST REISSUE / COMPILATION

Winner: Various Artists for Help

BEST LIVE ACT

Winner: Oasis

BEST ACT IN THE WORLD TODAY

Winner: R.E.M.

BEST NEW ACT

Winner: Supergrass

BEST PRODUCER

Winner: Tricky

SONGWRITER AWARD

Winner: Van Morrison

Q INSPIRATION AWARD

Winner: David Bowie / Brian Eno

MERIT AWARD

Winner: Eric Clapton

1996

Park Lane Hotel, London, on 8 November 1996 saw the seventh Q Awards ceremony, and was also the tenth year of Q Magazine, so saw something of a celebration. Here’s a picture of Suggs giving someone a high five, and here’s a very happy Brian Eno. Here are some scans of Elvis Costello and Rod Stewart from Q Magazine, January 1997.

BEST ALBUM

Winner: Manic Street Preachers for Everything Must Go

BEST REISSUE / COMPILATION

Winner: The Beatles for Anthology

BEST LIVE ACT

Winner: Pulp

BEST ACT IN THE WORLD TODAY

Winner: Oasis

BEST NEW ACT

Winner: Alanis Morissette

BEST PRODUCER

Winner: John Leckie

SONGWRITER AWARD

Winner: Rod Stewart

Q INSPIRATION AWARD

Winner: U2

MERIT AWARD

Winner: Eric Clapton

Further information