Fans of mid-1990s dance music cannot fail to be aware of The Grid‘s third album Evolver, and the huge hit singles that came from it. Famously named in homage to The Beatles‘ Revolver, this is the album where Richard Norris and Soft Cell‘s Dave Ball finally made their impact on the world of dance music.
It opens with Wake Up,
The second track was also the third single, the adorable Rollercoaster,
The huge hit from this album, and probably honestly the only reason most people remember anything about The Grid, was its second single, the joyful banjo-meets-trance track Swamp Thing,
There’s little else here with quite that same level of energy, but that isn’t necessarily a problem. Throb
The big surprise, in many ways, with The Grid is just how different each of their albums was – 1990 debut Electric Head is deliciously electronic pop, with some underground leanings, and 1992’s 456 is a transitory album, with only its final single Crystal Clear really sounding anything like Evolver. Then after a long break, 2008’s Doppelgänger is pure house.
With that in mind, it’s a little surprising just how unchallenging some of this album’s central tracks such as Rise
Some tracks do stand out though, for all of that, and Shapes of Sleep
Higher Peaks has a slightly different mood, sounding a bit more like a self-help tape than anything else we’ve heard up to now. But this is a long album, and it’s easy to get lost in between the hits.
Finally, we get the brilliant Texas Cowboys, released twice, as both the first and last single from this album, hitting number 21 and 17 respectively. The huge sirens, whiplash samples, and vocals are just mesmerising. This is easily the best track on here – it may not have had the novelty appeal of the banjos on Swamp Thing, but it’s a much better piece of music.
Spin Cycle follows, another huge dance piece, this time built around a rippling electric piano arpeggio. Good, but nothing particularly world-changing. In fact, it’s closing track Golden Dawn that offers the first real surprise here – it’s slower, and a bit less manic, except for a reasonably insane operatic lead vocal that eventually turns up halfway through. Leave the CD playing a little longer after the track finishes, and you’ll be treated to an entirely bonkers answerphone message to close the album out. Odd, but strangely enjoyable.
So Evolver is a good album – perhaps not a great album, and definitely one very much of its time – but definitely a good one. It’s undoubtedly The Grid‘s best known work, but is it even their best? We can debate that another time. Either way, if nothing else, if you’re looking for an hour of solid mid-90s dance and trance, this is a pretty good way to fulfill that desire.
You can still find the original release of Evolver at major retailers.