It was a painfully long five-year gap between Electronic‘s eponymous debut and the follow-up Raise the Pressure, released twenty years ago this week. Often forgotten and overshadowed by its older brother, this release saw them collaborating with Karl Bartos, both bucking and following the trend by creating a contemporary indie sound using soft synths.
I have to confess, I do have fond memories of this album, but it isn’t one I listen to often these days – I had assumed it was perhaps best left in the past, but now, twenty years on, it sounds amazing. First track Forbidden City is just so good! It’s a catchy song, with Bernard Sumner all over it, and somehow it’s very good indeed.
For You is rather closer to my memories of this album – it’s far from bad, harking back in its own way to Johnny Marr‘s past, but somehow it seems a little clumsier and less elegant than its predecessor. The middle section is nice, but the “la la la” coda seems a bit unnecessary. As the second single, it definitely didn’t have the power of the first, although a great package including tracks from earlier singles did make it worth owning.
For much of the album, it seems to flip backwards and forwards between then-contemporary indie-style songs, and the more “electronic” sound that you might expect from a group called Electronic, and so promo single Dark Angel is a pleasant inclusion. Honestly I think it sounded pretty dated when it came out, and now it definitely belongs in another era, but it’s a strong song. This time, the middle section is nothing short of brilliant.
This album is a mixed bag, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it’s also varied enough to always be interesting. One Day isn’t anything too special, but then we get the wonderful Until the End of Time. Nothing really sounds as though it was recorded in 1996, and I wonder if that’s the timeless quality that Karl Bartos brought to the table. If you can put that out of your mind, this is an easy album to enjoy, and with its energetic 303 work and catchy chorus, Until the End of Time is definitely one of the better things on it.
Third single Second Nature comes next, with its enormous piano introduction. The track that emerges is great, but you can’t help but feel a little disappointed after the way it began. This isn’t true of the beautifully Teutonic If You’ve Got Love, which in spite of a somewhat lacklustre chorus, is largely brilliant. Then Out of My League is a great, if unstirring rock track.
After a short interlude (Interlude) we get another of the best tracks on here, Freefall. For the first time in a few songs – possibly since the first – the melodies and lyrics actually fit together perfectly, and the backing complements them too. This is what Electronic sound like at their best.
It would be easy to ignore the last few songs on here – this album has thirteen tracks in total, and that’s just about enough to feel a bit burnt out by this stage. But Visit Me refuses to be forgotten, surprising you with one of the best melodies and one of the cleverest lyrics on here. How Long, an attempt to close things out in particularly triumphant fashion, is only a success to a certain degree – this time the backing is rather better than the slightly dubious chorus lyric.
This is a long album, but when the end comes, it’s a bit like the end of the encores at a concert – your legs are killing you and your ears are ringing, and part of you should have been fast asleep by now, but you really don’t want the moment to end. Time Can Tell is the perfect album closer – it’s another of the best songs on here, and seems a worthy reward to those who stuck this release right through to the end.
Twenty years on, it turns out that Electronic‘s second release is well worth a reappraisal. Maybe it isn’t quite as good as Electronic, but that would be a lot to ask. Difficult it may have been, but this is a worthy second album. I wonder if the third one still stands up this well.
There was a digital-only special edition at one point, but if you’re looking for a CD, there’s just one version of Raise the Pressure, still available here.