Well, it definitely isn’t often that you get to preview a new 808 State album. They’re back with Transmission Suite, which comes out in a couple of weeks. This is Tokyo Tokyo.
Few record labels hold the allure that ZTT do. Zang Tumb Tuum (or one of the other variations on the name that they have used from time to time) were formed in 1983 by Trevor Horn, his wife Jill Sinclair, and Paul Morley. Apart from an impressive range of artists, they came to be known for their videos and artwork, and remain influential to this day.
Created to release ABC‘s The Lexicon of Love, the label has gone on to house numerous huge names, including Art of Noise, 808 State, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Roy Orbison, Propaganda, Adamski, Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl, Seal, and Lisa Stansfield.
ZTT is part of the BMG group, so their minimal website is here:
Björk is definitely an artist that I don’t listen to anywhere near enough. For me, as a newcomer to the world of music, she seemed to appear pretty much out of nowhere with 1993’s brilliant Debut, but of course to anyone who knew what they were talking about, she had been floating around the alternative music scene for six years already as party of The Sugarcubes. Actually, before all that, she was a child star in Iceland, having released her actual debut Björk in 1977, but this is not the story of her career, it’s a review of her Debut album.
But Debut, or perhaps more accurately, “comeback”, opens with the brilliant Human Behaviour, produced, as most of the album is, by the then-prolific Nellee Hooper, and released as her debut solo single in June 1993. It’s a great song, challenging in the way that Björk‘s songs often are, but also catchy and clever at the same time.
Next comes Crying, a slightly more generic but still enjoyable track that leads us through to the frankly brilliant Venus as a Boy, the second single in summer 1993. Producer Hooper had, of course, not long before, taken Massive Attack‘s Unfinished Sympathy into the upper reaches of the charts, and he’s definitely applying some of the lessons learnt here as well.
At the time, there did seem to be quite a lot of singles coming out from this album, although there only actually appear to have been five after all, so there are plenty of songs that would never have been hits, and There’s More to Life Than This is definitely one of these. It’s got a pleasant house-meets-disco feel, and Björk pronounces “ghetto blaster” adorably, but it’s not amazing, frankly.
Just three years earlier, she had collaborated on a partially jazz-themed album Gling-Gló, and it’s refreshing to know that she hadn’t turned entirely to the dance sound, as Like Someone in Love, delivered with a jazz vocal style, pulls together a manically strummed harp, seashore noises, and not a whole lot else actually.
Big Time Sensuality was the final single of 1993, a brilliant house piece coupled on the second CD with millions of remixed by the fantastic Fluke and Justin Robertson of Lionrock. It’s bonkers, of course, but this is one of the finest songs on here.
One Day is pleasant too, a gently chilled out dance track that bobs along very nicely indeed for a few minutes. Some tracks, though, such as Aeroplane, are less interesting. Pleasant to have on here, and useful within the broader context of the album, of course, but definitely less essential.
But you’re never far from greatness on this album – Come to Me is lovely, and Violently Happy, released early in 1994 as the final single, with more mixes by Fluke and Graham Massey of 808 State, actually ended up as the second biggest hit from this release. The Anchor Song is a bit of an odd interlude, but it just about works as the closing track of the original version of the album.
Play Dead closes the album, on all the modern versions – and rightly so. At some point after Debut was originally released, David Arnold worked with her and Jah Wobble on this track for the film The Young Americans. Justifiably the biggest hit from this release, it’s quite fantastic – and a great one to hide for the end of the album. I do feel a bit bad for the people who bought the original version and missed out on this on the end, but if you weren’t quite that forward thinking, you might have had to buy this album twice.
It’s a great album, though, and a fantastic Debut. Highly recommended.
You can still find Debut all over the place – just make sure you get the version with Play Dead on the end of it.
Backlash aside, I always feel as though we should try and stir up a bit of excitement for this weekend’s Record Store Day, as we did in previous years. Here are some of the releases that caught my eye…
- a-ha – Hits South America – five previously unreleased live tracks (12″ EP, 3,000 copies in the US, also in the UK and Germany)
- Air – Casanova 70 – four remixes including two by Brendan Lynch (12″ “maxi transparent splatter vinyl”, Canada, UK, Germany, and Netherlands)
- David Bowie – The Man Who Sold the World (12″ picture disc, 5,000 copies in the US, also Canada, Germany and Netherlands), TVC15 (7″ picture disc, 5,000 copies in the US, also Canada, Germany and Netherlands), and I Dig Everything – The Pye Singles (12″ EP, 7,500 copies in the US, also Canada)
- Cassius – Action EP and 8 Beats (both 12″x2, Germany only – the latter also in Canada)
- Chvrches – Every Open Eye Remix EP (12″ EP, 5,000 copies in the US and Canada)
- John Cooper Clarke – Ou est le Maison de Fromage (180g coloured vinyl, UK only)
- Étienne de Crécy – Super Discount 1, Super Discount 2, and Super Discount 3 (all UK only, format not stated)
- Dead Can Dance – Anastasis (2xLP, 1,500 copies in the US, also Canada, Germany and Netherlands)
- 808 State – Pacific – three remixes (12″ EP, 2,000 copies in the US, also in the UK, Germany, and Netherlands)
- Europe – The Final Countdown 30th Anniversary – three tracks including new remix (12″ electric blue vinyl, UK only)
- Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Rage Hard (The Making of a 12″) (12″ EP, 2,500 copies in the US, also in the UK, Germany, and Netherlands)
- The Future Sound of London – Accelerator plus Andrew Weatherall remix of Papua New Guinea and Stolen Documents (black heavy weight LP in printed inner bag with hand-numbered 7″ vinyl, UK and Germany only)
- Heaven 17 – (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang (repressed 12″, Canada, UK, Germany, and Netherlands)
- Jean-Michel Jarre & E.S. – Exit (7″, Canada, UK, Germany, and Netherlands)
- Kings of Convenience – Quiet is the New Loud, Versus, and Riot on an Empty Street (LPs, UK, Germany, and Netherlands)
- Madonna – Like a Virgin & Other Hits (12″ pink vinyl, reissue of 1984 Japanese EP with Obi Strip, 4,500 copies in the US, also in Canada, the UK and Netherlands)
- Mike Oldfield – Nuclear (7″ picture disc, Canada, UK, Germany, and Netherlands)
- The Orb – The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld (4xLP, UK and Netherlands)
- The Residents – This is a Special DJ Record of The Residents’ Alleged Music. Please Do Not Steal It! Keep it at Your Station – We Need the Radio Airplay (LP, 1,500 copies in the US, also in Canada, the UK, Germany, and Netherlands)
- Soft Cell – Sex Dwarf – including remixes by The Grid (12″, Canada, UK, Germany, and Netherlands)
- Alan Partridge – Knowing Me, Knowing You (picture disc, UK only)
- Doctor Who – Genesis of the Daleks (LP blue vinyl, 2,500 copies in the US, also in the UK, Germany, and Netherlands)
- Dr. Who and the Daleks / Dr. Who – Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (LP box set, UK only)
In 1990, The Shamen were on the verge of being at the top of their game. Move Any Mountain, or Pro-Gen, as it was also sometimes known, was just beginning to storm the charts, and the five or so years of continuous hits which would follow were just about to begin. But the growth of their popularity was tempered by the tragic death of long-term member Will Sin in 1991, which seems to have affected them very deeply, although they barely took time to breathe before reappearing with Boss Drum in 1992.
In the years which followed, the 1991 US version of En-Tact seems to have become the definitive one – the long dull acid sections which plagued the original release were relegated and replaced by more accessible pieces. It opens with Move Any Mountain, which is a brilliant place to begin – it’s accessible pop, but also very contemporary dance music, and it’s easy to see why it ended up being such a huge hit.
Then comes Human NRG, not a single, but every bit as good as its neighbours. The production was from Graham Massey, of 808 State, and sounds like the best imaginable combination of The Shamen and Massey’s own works.
The brilliant underground Possible Worlds follows, possibly even the best track on here, as it mixes hard-hitting beats with soft and gentle ambiance. As with much of The Shamen‘s output, the lyrics are total gibberish, but once you accept that, it’s an easy track to enjoy.
Omega Amigo follows a similar pattern. This was actually, perhaps surprisingly, the first single from the album, released back in 1989. It’s catchy, daft, and fun. Which is what you want from the early 1990s. This is followed by an edited version of the interminable deep house Evil is Even, which is just about digestible in four-minute form.
Hyperreal Orbit comes next, William Orbit‘s acid take on one the penultimate and second most successful single from the album. It’s an odd hit, with some particularly bizarre lyrics, but Orbit’s production really brings out its better sides. Similarly, the edited version of Lightspan which follows is rather brilliant in its own way, heavily hinting of future directions for The Shamen.
The other single Make it Mine comes next. It wasn’t a huge hit, although it’s one of the catchier moments on here. This version features an oddly low vocal, so possibly needs a bit of work on the equalisation, but it’s easy to recognise it as a good track nonetheless.
At this point, the person compiling the US version of En-Tact from the pieces of the original album appears to have given up somewhat, as the pointless Oxygen Restriction gives way to Orbital‘s sub-par Hear Me and then 666 Edit, a particularly lousy remix of Move Any Mountain. Proceedings don’t pick up until the next of the alternative versions, Make it Minimal, and even that isn’t as good as the version we heard earlier. Hyperreal Selector suffers much the same fate.
Lightspan Soundwave is hard to fault, though – the breakdown between the riff may not be quite as powerful as the original version, but it’s still great while the riff is going. Then, finally, another version of Move Any Mountain (actually it’s Progen 91, but you’re unlikely to care) the I.R.P. in the Land of Oz version, which is a broken down, slightly extended take.
Ultimately, dispense with the remixes on the end, and you’ve got a pretty good album here. Sure, it falls apart a bit towards the end, but plenty of other albums do. As a first step into the world of chart hits and commercial pop, En-Tact is a pretty good release.
The US version of En-Tact is still widely available.
Three weeks in, and the newly reborn Music for the Masses radio show was finally starting to find a rhythm, even if it was just a week away from its end. Freed from the shackles of the playlists which dogged the show’s previous incarnation, there were now slots for forthcoming new releases, music news, and the new Artist of the Week slot. The laid back, late night nature of the music won the show a lot of praise – the fast talking of the presenter less so…
Show 23: Sun 24 Oct 2004, from 4:00am-6:00am
Broadcast on LSR FM, on FM and online. Artist of the week: Moby.
- The Beloved – A Dream Within a Dream
- Leftfield feat. Toni Halliday – Original
- Monaco – What Do You Want from Me?
- Moby – Porcelain
- Röyksopp – Remind Me (Someone Else’s Radio Mix)
- The Grid – Rollercoaster
- Olive – Beyond the Fray
- Depeche Mode – Enjoy the Silence (Reinterpreted)
- Peach – From This Moment On
- Moby – Heaven
- Way Out West – Blue
- Bent – Stay the Same
- Alex Gold feat. Phil Oakey – LA Today
- Gloworm – Carry Me Home
- Dirty Vegas – Walk Into the Sun
- Adamski (with Seal) – Killer
- Erlend Øye – Sheltered Life (Radio Mix)
- Beyer & Lenk feat. Tiga – Ananda
- Moby – The Whispering Wind
- 808 State – Pacific State
- Jam & Spoon feat. Rea – Be Angeled
This show was recorded, and for the most part still exists. It will be posted as a Playlist for stowaways soon.
My random jukebox does pick some funny things. And some brilliant things too. Here’s 808 State‘s Cübik, and I’ll let you make your mind up which it is.
Here are the top ten albums from the week before Christmas:
- Röyksopp – The Inevitable End
- U2 – Songs of Innocence
- David Bowie – Nothing Has Changed
- Erasure – Snow Globe
- The Shamen – En-Tact
- The Human League – Dare
- The Human League – Fascination!
- Erasure – The Violet Flame
- Pet Shop Boys – Introspective
- 808 State – Ex:el
Meanwhile, on the singles chart, Röyksopp and Robyn hold onto the top spot for a millionth week – this time with Monument.
Assuming I haven’t lost count somewhere along the way, this is post number 808 on this blog. That’s quite a milestone, I think you’ll agree. It’s also a pretty good excuse for us to listen to this:
If you enjoyed that, you might also like post number 303!
It’s time for the last of our movie soundtrack reviews for the time being, and this time for a film that I have actually seen, and as I recall enjoyed very much, the history of Factory Records, 24 Hour Party People.
Given the nature of the subject matter, you can obviously expect a lot of Joy Division, New Order, and Happy Mondays, but it begins back in 1977 with defining the Sex Pistols track Anarchy in the UK. Listening now, nearly forty years on, it’s surprising quite how tame it sounds – is this really the same record that got so many people worked up?
The first of three Happy Mondays tracks is next, with 24 Hour Party People, remixed by Jon Carter. Despite not knowing them particularly well as a band, I think it’s fair to say that this probably isn’t their finest hour – it’s era defining, and a great choice for title track, but it’s also a little bit overwrought at times.
Joy Division were really the act that defined Factory Records, and so it is only right that there would be four of their tracks on here – well, five, arguably. The first is the brilliant Transmission, representing the early sound of the record company.
It’s then time for a bit of a sidestep for some other music from the era, with The Buzzcocks‘ brilliant Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t Have), and then The Clash‘s Janie Jones, which is good, but less exciting. Either way, your transition to the late 1970s should be pretty solid by this stage.
The next track is exclusive, as Moby joins New Order for a live performance of the Joy Division track New Dawn Fades. Moby has long been a fan of this particular track, having recorded a cover version for the b-side of Feeling So Real back in 1996, and he gives it all he can on this version. But I’m not sure he really gives Ian Curtis‘s lyrics the performance they deserve. I wonder if anybody could.
Another slice of actual Joy Division follows, with Atmosphere, taking us into the 1980s, before time starts really jumping around to The Duruitti Column‘s brilliantly ethereal 1989 track Otis. Then comes A Guy Called Gerald‘s once iconic acid house piece Voodoo Ray, which has to now be one of the most dated tracks on this entire album.
New Order always had their ups and downs, and I’ve never been entirely convinced by Temptation. The lyrics are among Bernard Sumner‘s weakest, the vocal isn’t particularly well delivered, and the instrumentation is a little uninspired. What it does do is represent its era perfectly – few tracks would represent the Factory Records of 1987 in the way this one does.
Next up is a great moment from Happy Mondays, with Loose Fit from 1990, again very much reflecting its age, but somehow sounding really good for it. And the era-defining sound of Pacific State by 808 State follows. It feels as though this is a soundtrack for an era of music more than a film – a particular type of music, admittedly.
We’re then briefly transported back to 1983 for the superlative Blue Monday by New Order, without a doubt their finest hour, before house music arrives with a vengeance in the form of Marshall Jefferson‘s Move Your Body.
The tail end of this soundtrack is probably either unnecessary or euphoric, depending on how you feel about the Factory Records roster of artists, as it basically just retreads the ground we’ve been treading for the last hour or so. Not having had any Joy Division for a while, it’s about time we heard the brilliant She’s Lost Control, and then more Happy Mondays with the fantastic Hallelujah, which surely never sounded this good?
There’s then an exclusive new track from New Order, Here to Stay, which was subsequently also a single. It’s good – it’s got all the iconic pieces of New Order, particularly in this longer version where it does sound like one of their 1980s 12″ versions. But somehow it isn’t entirely satisfying. Not in the way that the last track, the essential Love Will Tear Us Apart is, anyway. Quite why Joy Division never included it on either of their albums was always a bit of a mystery to me – it’s such an amazing song, and so well delivered.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that 24 Hour Party People is the best of the movie soundtracks which we’ve reviewed recently – it has some weaker moments, but they are few and far between, and every track is clearly there with good reason. If you’re in the market for an album to introduce you to the world of music, this wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
You can find 24 Hour Party People – Music from the Motion Picture at all major retailers, such as this one.