Dirty Vegas – One

After the enormous worldwide success of their eponymous debut album (2002), Dirty Vegas were obviously still struggling to come up with a good album title, and so One (2004) was the follow-up.

It’s also fair to accuse them of having struggled with finding their sound. The rock-played-on-synths-to-a-dance-beat style of the debut gave way to a much more traditional rock sound with One, and sadly that really didn’t do them any favours.

The first track is Roses, a pleasant enough opener, but one which was really never going to set the world alight. This leads us to Home Again, which is just a bit dull – it’s nice enough, but it doesn’t go anywhere in particular, and it spends nearly five minutes trying. Maybe a bit of selective editing would have helped.

Human Love is one of the two tracks which really are good – as good as anything on the first album, in fact. By the time it turns up it’s actually a bit of a surprise, as you’ve waded through the first couple of tracks to get to this point. This could easily have been the second single though, if it had ever come to that.

The one single from this album was Walk Into the Sun, and it’s by far the best track on the album – it almost feels like false advertising actually, as this is clearly so much better than most of the songs on here. Catchy chorus, strong lyrics, and really it has everything it needs.

But the rest of the album is going to make for depressing reading. They’re all nice enough – Closer is a pleasant song, and  A Million Ways does demonstrate some faint echoes of the previous album. Don’t Throw It Away! is probably the best of the latter half of the album, but even that’s a bit meaningless and empty.

And so it goes on – In This Life and Given You Everything are nice enough, but they were never going to change the world, and album closer Save Me Now is a bit on the dull side too. This is fine as background music, but if you’re looking for something to grab you by the throat then this is not it.

In 2004, the charts were still important to most acts, and Dirty Vegas really weren’t performing well. They had also lost their stride in the US, the country which broke them in the first place, so they didn’t have an awful lot left. Walk Into the Sun struggled into the bottom end of the chart, and the album scraped a minor hit. It would be another seven years before the reasonably good Electric Love would signal their comeback, and that seems to be the time it took them to work out who they were again. But at the time that One arrived, they really weren’t sure.

You can still find One at all major retailers, and you can also enjoy some pretentious reviews at the same link if you’re bored.

Preview – Lamb

Lamb are back this week, after a gap of I don’t know how many years, bringing back their unique blend of chilled out electronic dub, or whatever. This is We Fall in Love, from the new album Backspace Unwind:

Chart for stowaways – 20 September 2014

Hopping forward a couple of weeks, just in time to see Goldfrapp‘s triumphant return to the charts, a year after Tales of Us was originally released. Röyksopp and Robyn are still firmly perched at the top of the singles, and floating around on the albums at number 16 too.

  1. Goldfrapp – Tales of Us
  2. Goldfrapp – Felt Mountain
  3. Jean Michel Jarre – Sessions 2000
  4. Kings Have Long Arms – I Rock, Eye Pop
  5. Pet Shop Boys – Elysium
  6. Pet Shop Boys – PopArt
  7. Goldfrapp – Supernature
  8. Enigma – MCMXC a.D.
  9. Orbital – Work 1989-2002
  10. Sarah Nixey – Brave Tin Soldiers

Beginner’s guide to The Grid

Partly the dance side-project of Soft Cell member Dave Ball, and partly a groundbreaking trance duo, The Grid have four albums to their name and a whole heap of remixes.

Key moments

You’ll probably remember Texas CowboysSwamp Thing, or maybe even Rollercoaster from the Evolver album. After two relatively low key albums, somehow the third contained pretty much non-stop hits.

Where to start

There’s a comprehensive singles compilation in the shape of Music for Dancing (1995), which is definitely the best place to start.

What to buy

Evolver (1994) is their truly essential album. Follow that up with the debut Electric Head (1990), and then the second album 456 (1992), and you’ll have a pretty solid selection of early 1990s dance pop.

Don’t bother with

The 2008 comeback Doppelgänger is entirely forgettable, and the singles are probably for completists only.

Hidden treasure

Bob Kraushaar‘s single version of A Beat Called Love is brilliant, if you can find a copy.

For stowaways

British Rock & Pop Awards 1982-1984

Due to a fundamental failing on my part, this post was actually written several months ago, accidentally deleted, and has now been recreated for your general entertainment. In the third article in this series, we look at the final three years of this nearly-decade-long award ceremony, before the BPI Awards (later the BRITs) supplanted them.

1982

The seventh ceremony took place in February 1983, at The Lyceum in London, and were presented by Anne Diamond (see BFI record).

On 15th January, Tommy Vance and Kid Jensen voiced this promo for the awards for BBC Radio 1 (also trailed here). This confirms that the following categories were included and were open for voting: Best Female SingerBest Male SingerBest GroupBest Single, and Best Album.

Thereza Bazar of Dollar presented the Best Album award.

The winners were ABC, with The Lexicon of Love (in third place), Madness, with Complete Madness (in second), and the overall winner was Duran Duran, with Rio.

The 1983 BPI Awards can be viewed here.

1983

The eighth and final ceremony, celebrating the music of the year 1983, took place on 21st February 1984 at The Lyceum in London, and.was presented by David Jensen and Sarah Kennedy, the latter of whom, as we’ll learn, didn’t write her own script, and hopefully didn’t pick her own wardrobe either.

In the award for Best British Rock/Pop Single were True, by Spandau Ballet, in third place, and Duran Duran with Is There Something I Should Know? in second place.

The winner was Karma Chameleon, by Culture Club.

By 1985, the BPI Awards (later the BRITs) were swiftly gaining momentum, and were well on the way to becoming the definitive British music award ceremony. They were also fully televised, for the first time since 1977, effectively taking the place of the British Rock & Pop Awards. Whether that’s the reason why these awards were discontinued, or whether there’s some other reason, is long lost in the mists of time, but for comparison the 1984 BPI Awards can be viewed here.

The Best Singles of 2003

I recently found this document in my archives, dated November 2003…

Conjure One “Sleep / Tears from the Moon” (Nettwerk; January; #41)

An amazing debut for Rhys Fulber’s solo project (he’s more commonly known as half of Delerium), which is taken to new heights by remixes from Tiësto and Ian van Dahl. This is how dance should sound in the twenty-first century.

Conjure One “Centre of the Sun” (Nettwerk; August; #83)

Although not quite as instantly catchy as its predecessor, this single boasts some fantastic electroclash and retro remixes from the likes of JXL and Pete Lorimer.

Dirty Vegas “Simple Things” (Parlophone; March; NCQ)

Another great track from the fantastic eponymous debut album, including live acoustic tracks and deep and dark remixes, showcasing all the different sides of the band.

Front Line Assembly “Maniacal” (SPV; October; no UK release)

I bought this because I’d heard a few tracks by the band (who are, rather confusingly, the same people behind Delerium) and knew their reputation, and was totally blown away by this release. Dark and powerful industrial electronica.

Dave Gahan “I Need You” (Mute; August; #27)

One of the best tracks from the Depeche Mode frontman’s debut solo album, including remixes from Ladytron and Gabriel & Dresden and exclusive tracks across the different formats.

Alex Gold feat. Phil Oakey “LA Today” (Xtravaganza; April; #68)

A slightly odd track that sounds something like a cross between the Human League and Dirty Vegas, but essential nonetheless.

Goldfrapp “Train” (Mute; April; #23)

Fantastic comeback from Goldfrapp including an exclusive track and remixes, and welcoming them into the electroclash arena.

Lemon Jelly “Nice Weather for Ducks” (XL; February; #16)

Huge airplay propelled this querky but endearing track towards the right end of the charts. Unfortunately the single is fairly sparse, but it’s worth getting for the main track if nothing else. And of course it’s got beautiful packaging.

Yoko Ono “Walking on Thin Ice” (Parlophone; April; #35)

Worth buying not for the track itself but for the fantastic Pet Shop Boys remixes on the second CD, which introduce beautiful rippling retro analogue synths and prove that the lads have still got it.

Erlend Øye “Sheltered Life” (Source; July; #93)

Fantastic remix for the second single from the debut solo album from half of Kings of Convenience that frankly ought to have been a huge hit.

Pet Shop Boys “Miracles” (Parlophone; November; #10)

A new Pet Shop Boys release is always a treat — this one is no exception, backed with new b-sides and remixes from the bonkers Lemon Jelly and someone called Eric Prydz.

Röyksopp “Sparks” (Wall of Sound; June; #41)

Another single from the essential album Melody A.M, this time with a daft remix by Roni Size but also an excellent new track and, on the second CD, the video to their best track yet, Remind Me.

Saint Etienne “Soft Like Me” (Mantra; January; #40)

A slight departure from their normal sound, but nonetheless one of the best tracks from their 2002 album Finisterre backed with remixes and dozens of exclusive b-sides.

Yello “Planet Dada / The Race 2003” (Motor; October; no UK release)

Sometimes bands slip in and out of fashion by moving ahead of the times. Yello, on the whole, have slipped out of the public eye by doing much the same thing (on the whole) for the last decade. Finally, the rest of the world has caught up with them, so their fantastic brand of electro is finally contemporary once again. There are even Tomcraft mixes of their biggest hit to boot.

Erasure – Wild!

By luck or by plan, it was Erasure who, in February 1989, scored the first number one on the compilation-free album chart, as The Innocents (originally released in 1988) returned to the top. Then just a few months later, they returned with their fourth album Wild! and topped the charts again. It’s a vast leap forward from its predecessor, but it also saw Clarke and Bell really embracing digital FM synthesis, which makes the album sound very dated in a particular way.

It opens with the instrumental reprise of Piano Song, somehow managing to be both beautiful and a little cheesy at the same time. After a minute or so of that, it’s on to third single Blue Savannah. Not particularly having been around at the time, it’s difficult to know how this might have been received when it was released in early 1990, but somehow now it seems locked in as a part of Erasure‘s history.

Lead single Drama! follows after a brief thunderstorm which seems suspiciously similar to the one on Introspective a year or so earlier. Famously one of the duo’s least favourite songs for a long time, it’s still got to be one of the best on this album. It’s got all of the traditional Erasure trademarks – at worst you could accuse the lyrics of being nonsensical, but even that’s not uncommon.

But as with The Innocents, when this album isn’t pumping out singles, it isn’t quite as interesting. How Many Times? is good, very sweet actually, but it doesn’t quite seem fully formed. It’s followed by final single Star, which is probably my least favourite of the four, but even so, it fits nicely on here.

Side A closes with the entirely nonsensical – and fun – La Gloria. It’s actually rather hard to fathom exactly what they were thinking when recording it – it is enjoyable, it is silly, and it is very memorable – but what on earth was going through their heads?

Side B is, on Erasure albums, the area where they often have problems. Wild! is no exception, but it does start with You Surround Me, easily the best of the four singles and a brilliant way to ease yourself back into the album.

There’s then a bit of a lull, with the reasonably good Brother and Sister followed by the decidedly poor 2,000 Miles and then back to reasonably good with Crown of Thorns. Occasionally all three seem to almost touch on brilliance, and then you’re back to mediocrity again.

The full version of Piano Song, though, is beautiful. Incredible. Moving. And entirely unexpected after the somewhat variable tracks which preceded it. What a way to close the album, though – it’s really quite astonishingly good.

So Wild! is a difficult one to quantify. The title is apt, and it’s definitely fun, but it’s also variable, and not always intentionally so. But just two years later, Erasure would return with perhaps the best of their career, Chorus.

You can still find Wild! at all major retailers.

Preview – Caribou

You probably know more about Caribou than I do. You probably know already that they have a new album coming out called Our Love, and a new song taken from it with exactly the same name. But just in case you don’t, here it is:

Chart for stowaways – 30 August 2014

Let’s jump forward a couple of weeks, so we can gradually work our way towards the present day. I was away in August, so the charts went a bit odd, but here are the singles from the final week of the month…

  1. Röyksopp & Robyn – Do it Again

  2. Shit Robot – Teenage Bass

  3. New Order – Confusion Remixes 02

  4. Jean Michel Jarre – La Cage

  5. Saint Etienne – Pocket Call

  6. Soulsavers – Longest Day

  7. Erasure – I Love Saturday

  8. Röyksopp & Robyn – Every Little Thing

  9. Gotan Project – El Mensajero

  10. The Irrepressibles – In This Shirt