In a way, it’s a strange thing to be a fan of a record company, rather than the acts who are on it. But Mute has always been such an eclectic and open-minded organisation, and has had so many excellent artists on its roster, that it’s difficult not to be a fan.
So it was that I came across Luke Slater, and his most successful album to date Alright on Top. It first appeared fifteen years ago this week, and I think I fell across it a year or two later.
Alright on Top opens with lead single Nothing At All, which for some might be world changing, but I suspect that many, like me, will find it a bit droney and dull. It’s a decent noisy electro track, but I don’t know as I would have bought the album just because of having heard this.
Interestingly though, the singles are not as good as this album gets – You Know What I Mean is a sweet mixture of noisy electronics and a catchy pop melody. It might not exactly be contemporary any more, but it was at least great for its time.
It’s the huge analogue sound of Stars and Heroes that really grabs you. The enormous chugging synth arpeggio that runs throughout the entirety of this track is unmissable, but this is also a real song, not just some anonymous electronic noise. If it could have found an era to belong to, this really should have been an enormous hit.
But it wasn’t, and neither was the brilliant I Can Complete You, which was released as another of the singles. It’s a love song, delivered by a robot alongside another enormous analogue synth line and some slightly trippy and rock-inspired drumming. It really is brilliant.
This is a multi-faceted album – it has degrees of darkness, but also some cheery performances too, and unlike some of Luke Slater‘s earlier works, the focus is definitely on the songs. Only You is a sweet love song – if you sat down and read the lyrics it would be difficult to conclude anything else. But combined with enormous beats and deep and dark electronics, it becomes something much more complex.
By this stage you should be pretty much ready for the enormity of Take Us Apart, which ripples from ear to ear with complex synth lines while a huge bass line bounces along joyfully in the background. Again though, this is definitely a song, with a vocal that just about manages to keep up with the slightly manic synth work.
So it continues with Searchin’ for a Dream, and then Take Me Round Again, both dark and melodic, and in the case of the latter, full of acid squawks and tribal drums. There are hints of every form of electronic music here, even right back to the fifties and sixties at times.
Finally, the twisted but adorable Twisted Kind of Girl leads us to closing track Doctor of Divinity, which gives us pounding beats, punctuated by crisp and dull electronic sounds. It may not be the most exciting piece of music ever by itself, but closing this album it sounds exceptional.
This album represents pretty much all I know about Luke Slater, but I’m glad to have found it. Play this alongside pretty much anything else from Mute Records’ back catalogue and you’re guaranteed a fascinating listening experience.
You can still find Alright on Top at all major retailers.