Preview – Andy Bell

If, like me, you hadn’t been paying full attention, you might well have missed Torsten the Bareback Saint, the project that Andy Bell was involved with last year. You might not even know what it is.

Either way, his new remix album comes out next week, featuring highlights from the musical, and it includes Fountain of Youth:

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Chart for stowaways – 15 August 2015

We’re still running a couple of weeks behind, but these are interesting charts. Well, I think so anyway. Here are the albums:

  1. The Future Sound of London – Environment Five
  2. Leftfield – Alternative Light Source
  3. Little Boots – Working Girl
  4. Hot Chip – Why Make Sense?
  5. Moderat – II
  6. MG – MG
  7. Röyksopp – The Inevitable End
  8. Camouflage – Greyscale
  9. Hot Chip – Made in the Dark
  10. Hot Chip – In Our Heads

Beginner’s guide to Joy Division

With a career tragically cut short by Ian Curtis‘s suicide, Manchester’s Joy Division managed just two studio albums and a handful of singles, but somehow managed to leave an enormous impact on the world.

Key moments

If you’re just a fan of pop music, you might have only heard Love Will Tear Us Apart, so it might come as a surprise to learn that it isn’t actually on either of the albums. There are plenty of other special moments hidden away across all their releases, so dive in!

Where to start

This is actually quite difficult. I don’t want to recommend any of the singles compilations, but a beginner should definitely get Love Will Tear Us Apart on their first foray into Joy Division‘s back catalogue. The Heart and Soul set is great, but hides the albums weirdly in amongst everything else, making it daunting for a first timer.

On balance, go with the 1998 The Best Of Joy Division compilation – even if you buy everything else, the bonus disc will give you a set of Peel Sessions to hang on to.

What to buy

Again, you could do worse than Heart and Soul, but I find I never listen to it because of the way the albums are secreted. Instead, start with Unknown Pleasures (1979), and then grab Closer (1980), before concluding with the early collection Still (1981). I’m not clear whether the remasters are worth tracking down, but the bonus discs sound more appropriate for completists than beginners.

Don’t bother with

Permanent, the 1995 singles compilation, which sacrifices space for originals to a silly new remix of their most famous track.

Hidden treasure

There are lots of hidden demos and live versions that you can look forward to tracking down later, but don’t worry about any of that for now.

For stowaways

Dubstar – Make it Better

Dubstar must have been pretty nervous fifteen years ago when releasing their third album Make it Better. After the success of Disgraceful (1995), their second album Goodbye (1997) had been less accomplished but still performed well, and now they were back with a completely new sound. How would it perform?

Fortunately, the opening track Take It is absolutely brilliant. What a way to kick the new album off! It’s huge, full of enormous synth lines and a great catchy chorus. To call it a return to form would be unfair, as they were always pretty good, but it’s definitely a good start.

Lead single I, here without its subtitle (Friday Night), comes next. In a way, it’s a curious choice for lead single – there are plenty of others which might have been better, but at the very least it really would have made people prick up their ears and listen.

Ultimately this album’s tale isn’t entirely a happy one, just because it would be Dubstar‘s last, and second single The Self Same Thing is a reminder of this – it’s a lovely song, but it was tucked away as a non-chart-qualifying release (admittedly with some great b-sides). But for all its hidden melancholy, this is a great album, as the cover version of Mercury proves. Driven by a catchy guitar riff and full of droning noises, this is a very different Dubstar from the band we knew an album or so ago.

Stay, with its slightly existential statement that Sarah (Blackwood) will Make it Better, is a fun diversion, although it does feel as though the later “Let daddy make it better” line might be a little bit sinister. This is definitely a schizophrenic collection.

Another Word takes you back to the 1960s somehow with its strangely retro sound, and then When the World Knows Your Name is a curious, introspective piece. Arc of Fire is nearly extremely good, but is let down by a rather awkward melody line.

Tucked away towards the end is the lovely Believe in Me, undoubtedly the best song on this album. This is a great little guitar-based pop piece, although it does take you back to 2000 slightly with a reminder that everyone else in the pop world had really “done” indie by this stage and were moving back to electronic music. Dubstar‘s noisy period seems to have come at slightly the wrong time unfortunately.

The previous album Goodbye had suffered a little from including too many tracks, and Make it Better seems to have a bit of filler too. I’m Conscious of Myself is fun, but Rise to the Top is, possibly for the first and last time in their career, really not that great.

Then, finally, we get the lovely Swansong, the closing track both of this album and also pretty much of this trio’s career. It’s a lovely piece about regrets and memories, and it does actually make for a rather sad listen now, so many years later. Their career barely lasted half a decade, but they should definitely be remembered with fondness.

Even now, fifteen years on, there is intermittent talk of a Dubstar comeback, but you probably shouldn’t hold your breath. But they were great in the 1990s, and even in 2000 they were good, so maybe the time for them to return has finally come.

You can still find Make it Better through all the normal places.

Music for the Masses 35 – 9 March 2005

Kicking off a show with I Monster‘s Who is She? is a rare privilege, as is closing one with the extended version of The Beloved‘s Sweet Harmony. With Sparks as artist of the week, and including some of their highlights from the 1970s, this was definitely going to be a particularly special show.

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Show 35: Wed 9 Mar 2005, from 6:05pm-8:00pm

Broadcast on LSR FM, online only. Artist of the week: Sparks.

  • I Monster – Who is She?
  • Moby – Lift Me Up (Mylo Remix)
  • Saint Etienne – Only Love Can Break Your Heart
  • Télépopmusik – Stop Running Away
  • Erasure – Rock Me Gently (Bamboo)
  • S.I. Futures – Eurostar
  • Madonna – Nobody’s Perfect
  • Sparks – La Dolce Vita
  • Apollo 440 – Liquid Cool
  • Elektric Music – TV
  • Faithless – Fatty Boo
  • Sparks – It’s a Knock-Off
  • Adamski – Killer
  • Front Line Assembly – Prophecy
  • New Order – Krafty
  • Yello – Lost Again
  • Sparks – The Rhythm Thief
  • The Orb – Toxygene
  • The Beloved – Sweet Harmony (Live the Dream Mix)

Preview – a-ha

I think I genuinely thought I would never write these words, after they split up a decade or so ago, but everybody’s favourite pencil-drawn Norwegian popstars a-ha are back! At the time of writing, they had forgotten to promote this via their official site, so we’ll have to make do with this. This is Under the Make-Up: