Electronic‘s first album is widely celebrated as being excellent, and as I found out a couple of weeks ago, the second one turns out to be a lot better than any of us remembered too. But as I listened to that one to write the review, I found myself questioning my memories of the third one – is it really as bad as I remembered? Let’s find out.
I’m always a bit suspicious of noisy, industrial electronica, and listening to opening track Make it Happen, I wonder if that might be where my dissatisfaction with Twisted Tenderness stemmed from. It’s a nice enough jingly synth line at the beginning, and then a funky guitar line comes in before we get the vocal. This is telling: “Sometimes we find ourselves searching for something new,” Bernard Sumner tells us.
Well, doing “new” things just for the sake of it is a bit misguided, but let’s give it a chance anyway. Bernard and his bandmate Johnny Marr had clearly been listening to a lot of The Chemical Brothers (and as it turned out, Sumner was also working with them on Out of Control, which was rather better than this and appeared a few months later).
The other telling aspect is Arthur Baker, who turns up as producer here, with some supporting work from members of Doves and Black Grape. Baker has plenty of electronic music on his CV of course, but by the late 1990s seemed to have settled on a much darker, more industrial sound. Which is OK, of course – guitars are “electronic” too, but I suspect Electronic might have been on a mission to alienate their established fanbase here.
Eventually Make it Happen draws to a close and the charmless Haze begins. Where this succeeds over the preceding track is in its chorus: this time it fits nicely, whereas Make it Happen‘s seemed shoehorned in at best.
There’s a noticeable change in mood at the start of the one and only single Vivid, with its curious mix of electronic backing and harmonica with guitars and live drums. Despite that, it’s actually a pretty good song – it could have just about fitted as one of the less good moments on the preceding album Raise the Pressure. But that’s about it – it’s good, but nothing too great. And I can’t help but worry that might be as good as this album gets.
Neither is it ever too bad though – at worst, it’s listenable, even if it’s not really our thing. The less good moments (Breakdown) are always balanced by the better ones (Can’t Find My Way Home, Twisted Tenderness). I suspect the latter is intended to provide continuity to the previous releases, but even so, barely a moment goes by when you don’t find yourself looking at this album’s neighbours on the shelf and wishing you were listening to one of them instead.
Like No Other is forgettable, and Late at Night was almost going to be the second single, but never quite got its full release, and honestly that’s no major injustice. The better moments still appear – Prodigal Son drags on a bit, but it’s pretty good, but closing tracks When She’s Gone and Flicker are nothing special.
When I write these reviews, I just listen to the album and write what I think. Sometimes I’m wrong, and people quite rightly call me out for it. Other times their arguments (like mine) are clearly tempered by their memories. But I wonder if anyone will rush in to defend this album? Because honestly, right now I think I’m right – either it isn’t very good, or I’m just not its intended audience. Probably the latter, but in that case, who is?
You can still find Twisted Tenderness at all major retailers.