Random jukebox – Garbage

You probably remember the Scottish-American group Garbage, with their pop-rock crossover from the late 1990s. Here’s Stupid Girl.

Erasure – Abba-esque EP

Twenty-five years ago, this was number one in the UK for five weeks.

That’s really all you need to know – Erasure held on to the top spot for a very long time. They were huge, and they pretty much single-handedly managed to revive Abba‘s career as well.

There are just four tracks on here – firstly Lay All Your Love on Me, full of electronic flashes and squawks. If you don’t know Abba, you can just accept that this is one of Erasure‘s catchiest moments. If you do, you can enjoy a very different take on a great song.

Perhaps coincidentally, these tracks appear in alphabetical order, so the melancholic S.O.S. comes next, sounding equally brilliant. It’s fascinating to think just how busy Erasure must have been during this period – this EP appeared barely a year after the preceding album Chorus, and also turned up as a four-track video single, the production of which must have really put them through their paces.

Take a Chance on Me was the track that received the most airplay, and was logically therefore the one that appeared on Pop! The First 20 Hits a few months later. It’s great, and definitely every bit as good as anything else that Erasure ever did. Until, at least, MC Kinky turns up for a slightly inexplicable rap halfway through. She was unceremoniously removed from some of the promo radio versions, and I’m not sure she really adds much to the song, but then on the other hand it would be difficult to imagine it without her appearing and rapping about… well, whatever it is she’s going on about, because frankly I’ve never understood a word of it.

Closing the collection is the best of the lot, Voulez Vous. There’s an element of seedy underground darkness, which is of course, entirely as it should be. Four remixes were commissioned for club play, and, so the story goes, weren’t originally intended for commercial release, but were changing hands for such extravagant prices that a non-charting CD and 12″ release followed later. None of them are particularly good, to be honest, but Voulez Vous is probably the closest hint to what’s on there.

Before you know it, the backing has gone a bit crazy, and you’re at the end of this EP already. It’s a shame that it’s over so quickly, but what a fantastic collection of songs!

You should still be able to find second hand copies of this EP, but the original release is no longer widely available in physical form. Try here for starters.

Retro chart for stowaways – 20 May 2006

While I’m still away on my holidays, here are the top 10 albums from eleven years ago:

  1. Massive Attack – Collected
  2. Goldfrapp – Supernature
  3. William Orbit – Hello Waveforms
  4. I Monster – Neveroddoreven
  5. Depeche Mode – Playing the Angel
  6. Madonna – Confessions on a Dance Floor
  7. Röyksopp – The Understanding
  8. Pet Shop Boys – PopArt
  9. Röyksopp – Röyksopp’s Night Out
  10. Sugababes – Taller in More Ways

Artist of the Week – Apollo 440

This is almost the last of our old Artist of the Week reprints. This one dates back to 2005, and as usual, is full or errors, omissions, and hyperbole.

Liverpool has long been known as a hotbed of inventive and eccentric new music. Apollo 440 may not be a widely known name on this scene, but their tracks are considerably better known than their name. They started recording and remixing at the start of the 1990s, shooting to fame with their 1993 single Astral America, which brought them a huge hit single. The brilliant album Millennium Fever followed the subsequent year, but failed to break them into the mainstream.

It was with the second album Electro Glide in Blue that they truly entered the mainstream, with the singles Krupa and Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Dub shooting them into the upper end of the charts. The following year their updated theme for the film Lost in Space brought them another huge hit. ·

One of their greatest strengths, however has always been their haunting soundtrack music. Some of the score to Lost in Space was their work, they also composed the soundtrack for the game Rapid Racer, and following the third album High on Your Own Supply, released in 1999, they scored another huge hit with the theme to the first Charlie’s Angels film.

Further huge hits followed, with Stop the Rock and Heart Go Boom both gracing the upper end of the charts, as well as their duet with Jean Michel Jarre on Rendez-Vous 98.

Their return in 2003 was sadly rather less of a success. After nearly four years working on the fourth album, the double CD epic Dude Descending a Staircase was released, but failed to make any impact on the charts whatsoever. The single of the same name was a minor hit, but in many ways lacked the impact of their earlier works.

Robert Miles

I’ve just got back from my holidays, so I’m sorry that I’m a little late commenting on this. While I was away, I was very sorry to read about the untimely passing of Robert Miles, as it turns out from cancer.

It shouldn’t really surprise anyone that his mega-hit Children and the album that spawned it, Dreamland (which we reviewed here just a few months ago and found to be surprisingly good) have both jumped back onto the charts. His later albums were good too, and we listened to Paths on one of the first the random jukeboxes a while back too.

But my favourite track of his was from his second album 23am, and was this beautiful piece, Maresias. Rest in peace.

Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène 7-13

By 1997, nearly three decades into his career, Jean-Michel Jarre had finally achieved legendary status. All he needed to do was find a way to follow up on his debut chart hit Oxygène, and the world would be his oyster. So that’s what he did.

The album opens with Part 7, a bold, eleven minute piece which kicks off with single, bright synth notes, before building gradually into an enormous synth dance piece. Jarre was clearly in his element here – finally, mainstream music had caught up with him, and he was able to play along and show everybody else how it was done. He may no longer have been the cultish outsider, but he was really at his creative peak.

Jarre had already flirted with his past on 1994’s Chronologie, which had yielded a couple of hit singles, and so recording Oxygène (Part 8) must have been pretty straightforward. But this is so good! Somehow this is classic Jean-Michel Jarre, and yet he had never quite released anything like it before.

Part 9 is perhaps the gentlest piece on here, and the only one that strongly reminds the listener of the original album (although the same synthesisers were used, so the general “mood” remains the same across both releases).

Side B opens with Part 10, which was also the second single, albeit in a vastly reworked form. There’s something rather glorious about the melody, although somehow the backing is just a touch too cheesy to have ever performed well on the charts by itself. Then Part 11 is perhaps the least penetrable piece on here, and energetic, heavily arpeggiated piece, which fits perfectly in the album context, but might not have got too far if it had been released by itself.

Part 12 is brilliant though, and probably could have been a hit as well. Powered largely by a very bouncy synth arpeggio, the melody is cleverly hidden amongst the electronic chirps, and it’s an extremely beautiful piece of music. Then, finally, we reach Part 13, an even sweeter closing track than Part 6, which ended the original album. A simple and sweet pad melody with soft harmonies is accompanied by some slightly overwrought percussion, and that might seem like an unfair description, but I don’t think it’s too far off the mark. It’s still a fantastic piece of music.

When the original Oxygène album came out in 1976, he already had a handful of little-known releases under his belt, so it’s far from naïve, but this sequel is still infinitely more confident, and some might suggest therefore that it lacks some of the innocence of its predecessor. I don’t think that’s true – it may not be quite as close to perfection, but it’s still pretty darn close.

This second volume in the Oxygène series is still widely available, either in its original form, or retitled Oxygène 2 as part of the Oxygène Trilogy boxed set.