Chart for stowaways – 10 March 2018

Here’s this week’s top ten:

  1. Sparks – Hippopotamus
  2. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – The Punishment of Luxury
  3. Moby – Everything Was Beautiful & Nothing Hurt
  4. Tracey Thorn – Record
  5. David Bowie – Legacy
  6. Pet Shop Boys – Introspective
  7. Pet Shop Boys – Actually
  8. Pet Shop Boys – Please
  9. Fever Ray – Plunge
  10. David Bowie – Low

Stowaway Heroes – John Peel

This week’s stowaway hero really is somebody who needs no introduction. John Peel remains a household name, not just in the UK, although people further afield may not quite be sure why he’s so special. A highly influential BBC Radio 1 DJ for five decades, I’ve always thought it was fair to say that he was single-handedly the inspiration for the radio station BBC 6 Music as well.

His blissful semi-professionalism was a wonderful part of his show, as he regularly played records at the wrong speed, and often made them sound much better in the process. It’s tempting to wonder if that might be why he championed the Cuban Boys (see here if you don’t know what I’m talking about).

An early champion of Joy Division, they appeared twice on his show and were played many more times. Here he is with the sad announcement of Ian Curtis‘s death in May 1980:

Pretty much any act worth their salt appeared on his show at some point, and you could pick any of them to showcase just how good the show was. Here’s my choice, The Human League, performing Being Boiled in 1978:

Sadly, Peel left us much too soon, dying in 2004, aged 65 – and while that would have made him nearly 80 at the time of writing, the world was a much richer place with his show in it. We all have different reasons to like Peel, but there’s really no way that he can’t be one of our stowaway heroes.

The Grid – Doppelgänger

In 1994, The Grid were at their creative peak – Texas CowboysSwamp Thing, and Rollercoaster were riding high on the charts, and the album Evolver was one of the biggest dance albums of the year. After their singles compilation Music for Dancing the following year, they then promptly disappeared for thirteen years. Their reappearance in 2008 with Doppelgänger was, bluntly, a bit of a disappointment after all the wait. But now it’s ten years old – is it as bad as it seemed at the time?

It opens with 8 Miles from Memphis, an eccentric acid house piece that probably couldn’t get you onto the dance floor if you weren’t already there, but also wouldn’t drive you off it.

A lot of your feeling about this album will be contingent on how you feel about US-style house music, the understated, beatsy type of dance music that uses repetition and sampling to lull you into some kind of dance frenzy. Vibration is typical of this – it’s a pleasant house track, but alongside the likes of Rollercoaster or Diablo, you have to wonder quite where it’s going.

Some tracks are better than others – the subaquatic sound of Pleasure Control works well, whereas the one single, Put Your Hands Together, while occasionally reminiscent of 1990s-era The Grid, turns out to be a bit dull. But whatever the shortcomings of some of the individual tracks, the album as a whole is pretty good actually – Slinker turns up with its fun warping, and Pure Statik appears with more of a dreamy post-disco feel.

A standout track at the halfway point is Mighty Heroik, which sees the legendary Robert Fripp turn up to add his usual wailing, dreamy frippery. For the first time on this album, there are echoes of the past – it reminds me slightly of Floatation from the first album Electric Head – as well as outstanding new sounds. This is what The Grid should be.

The laid back period of this album also brings us Saturday, another pleasant, sweet, largely instrumental piece. Closer is oddly familiar – it sounds like something you might have come across somewhere else, a decade or so earlier. Then Three Floors Above You takes us back to the house tracks we had started with, but with much more of a late night feel.

That is very much the feeling with the latter half of Doppelgänger – after the energetic house of the first half, we’re now into much softer, gentler pieces – Feed Your Mind is pleasantly sweet, and Fools Rush in is actually my favourite track on here, a soft vocal piece that glides along pleasantly for four minutes or so.

Finally, we get the closing track, Be Here with You, and here we actually get a load of “doo wop wop” vocals and harmonising. This isn’t exactly what you might expect of The Grid either, but it’s definitely pleasant.

So Doppelgänger held a lot of surprises, some better than others, and it’s probably fair to say that it wasn’t quite up to the standard of their earlier albums. But it does have something, and it does deserve a listen.

You can find Doppelgänger at all major music retailers.

Preview – Moby

Honestly, I think Moby has been a bit too prolific for me in recent years, so I have to confess I haven’t been paying him much attention. This is nice though – from Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt, this is Mere Anarchy:

Chart for stowaways – 3 March 2018

Here are the top singles:

  1. Simon Mills – Poke EP
  2. The Beloved – Don’t You Worry
  3. Goldfrapp – Happiness
  4. Sparks – I Wish You Were Fun
  5. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – What Have We Done
  6. Sparks – Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me)
  7. Kylie Minogue – Dancing
  8. Pet Shop Boys – Say It to Me
  9. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – As We Open, So We Close
  10. Erasure – Always

Stowaway Heroes – Trevor Horn

You probably know Trevor Horn‘s name, but you might not realise quite why. Let me give you a clue – after a few years as a session musician, he formed a group called Buggles. You’ll know them for this UK number one from 1979:

He then launched the career of Dollar, produced an ABC album, and then brought us this from Frankie Goes to Hollywood:

But for me, what makes him a stowaway hero is Left to My Own Devices, one of the most iconic songs from Pet Shop Boys:

So welcome to our mini-hall of fame, Trevor Horn! You are a stowaway hero.