Bent – Intercept!

Laid back duo Bent‘s fourth and, to date, final studio album Intercept! came out a decade ago this week. As one of the most interesting and ingenious acts of their genre, that would seem to be a good excuse to give it a listen.

It begins with Exercise 7, completing a series of experimental instrumental pieces which go right back to some of their earliest releases. This one is a chirpy piece which begins with a sample asking “what would you do if you knew you only had three days to live?” and seems to take the choice of spending those last few days enjoying itself.

The one single from this album was the delightful To Be Loved, which builds gradually from a quirky introduction to a glorious chorus. It was never really going to make much of an impact on the charts, but it’s pretty good nonetheless.

Bent have, or perhaps had, a talent for gentle but catchy pop songs, with a bit of an eccentric touch here and there – and Stay Out All Night is a fine example of this. The lyrics are strange, perhaps even a little silly, but the delivery consists of an adorable vocal performance and some very sweet synth work, so it’s difficult not to like.

The instrumental Breakfast at 80,000 ft comes next, and then Tired of the Show, a curious piece which sounds from its vocal as though it ought to be a hard rock track, but the backing is a mixture of Bent‘s traditional soft sounds with a few grimey synth additions. It’s a strange mix, but it works rather well.

After the short instrumental piece Wendy, Darling, we get a less remarkable piece Waiting for You, catchier but somehow a lot less special than some of its neighbours, and then the lovely choral interlude of As Seen from Space.

If Bent‘s traditional brilliance had been lacking at all on the tracks up to this point, The Handbrake is definitely every bit as good as anything else they ever released. It’s a great song, with just a hint of early 1980s synth and bass work in amongst the gentle strumming guitar.

It was probably inevitable that they would leave us on a high. Leavin’ Me is a beautiful piece, apparently sampling Canadian country singer Anne Murray and adding a whole load of soft synth sounds and chimes. This is every bit as good as anything from Programmed to Love.

Right at the end comes the lovely After All the Love, another country-styled song, which appears to be largely accompanied by frogs chirping. Any criticisms this album may have received seem very unfair when you listen to this. Fans at the time seem to have struggled with Intercept!, and I think I understand why, but it’s a good album – just maybe not the best place to start your journey with the mysterious and wonderful Bent.

You can still find Intercept! at all major retailers. Don’t bother reading the reviews.

Greatest Hits – Vol. 8

Every so often I like to take a little downtime and remind you about some of the posts that you might have missed recently. Here are a few…

Retro chart for stowaways – 26 February 2005

Here are the top ten albums from eleven years ago:

  1. Mylo – Destroy Rock & Roll
  2. Erasure – Nightbird
  3. Client – City
  4. The Chemical Brothers – Push the Button
  5. Bent – Ariels
  6. Lemon Jelly – ’64-’95
  7. Depeche Mode – The Remixes 81-04
  8. Kylie Minogue – Ultimate Kylie
  9. Girls Aloud – What Will the Neighbours Say?
  10. Dirty Vegas – One

Retro chart for stowaways – 3 February 2007

The top ten singles from nine years ago:

  1. Client – Lights Go Out
  2. Eric Prydz vs. Floyd – Proper Education
  3. Depeche Mode – Martyr
  4. Sohodolls – No Regrets
  5. Girls Aloud – I Think We’re Alone Now
  6. Schmoof – Chocolate Boyfriend
  7. Pet Shop Boys – Numb
  8. Bent – To Be Loved
  9. Tiga – (Far from) Home
  10. Girls Aloud – Something Kinda Oooh

Music for the Masses 39 – 7 May 2005

For the final run of Music for the Masses, from April to May 2005, I had secured the coveted Saturday night slot, building people up to a stomping night out in Leeds. Or alternatively helping them to revise for their exams. Or potentially neither; it was rather difficult to tell. But looking through the playlist, I can see a slightly more uptempo seam running through the show, culminating with the Electromix at the end of the show.

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Show 39: Sat 7 May 2005, from 6:00pm-8:00pm

Broadcast on LSR FM, online only. Artist of the week: The Shamen.

  • Morcheeba – World Looking In
  • Erasure – Here I Go Impossible Again
  • 1 Giant Leap feat. Robbie Williams & Maxi Jazz – My Culture
  • Mylo – In My Arms (Sharam Jey Remix)
  • The Shamen – Comin’ On (Beatmasters Mix)
  • Sylver – Make It
  • Aurora – Ordinary World
  • BT – Orbitus Terrarium
  • Kraftwerk – Aérodynamik
  • The Shamen – MK2A
  • Depeche Mode – Freelove (Live) [The Live Bit]
  • Stereo MCs – Connected
  • Technique – Sun is Shining
  • Felix – Don’t You Want Me
  • Yello feat. Stina Nordenstam – To the Sea
  • New Order – Jetstream (Arthur Baker Remix)
  • The Shamen – Indica
  • Binar – The Truth Sets Us Free
  • Talk Talk – Talk Talk
  • Mirwais feat. Craig Wedren – Miss You [Electromix]
  • Elektric Music – Lifestyle (Radio-Style) [Electromix]
  • Front Line Assembly – Everything Must Perish [Electromix]
  • Fluke – Absurd
  • Bent – The Waters Deep

The Electromix feature from this show still exists, and will be included on a future Playlist for stowaways.

Bent – Programmed for Love

It only seems like yesterday that Bent‘s debut album launched, but in fact it was fifteen years ago already that the beautiful, eccentric, laid back sounds of Programmed to Love were drifting across the airwaves for the first time.

The album begins with the brilliant showcase Exercise 1. Everything that you’re going to love is here, from the sweet swelling pad effects and bonkers vocal samples, through to the overwhelming sense of happiness it brings. It’s difficult to listen to Bent without an enormous smile on your face.

This is an album that drifts, as Exercise 1 mixes into the sweet but short Laughing Gear, and then the exquisite Private Road, with our first taste of Zoë Johnston‘s superlative soft vocals.

Cylons in Love offers our first taste of another key side of Bent, the lead vocal part sampled from an ancient recording, probably on vinyl. A lovely processed vocal part comes in to make the piece a duet, and works remarkably well.

It just seems to keep flowing, with the serene I Love My Man, and the slightly daft but fun instrumental Invisible Pedestrian. All the way through Programmed to Love, the sillier moments balance out the prettier ones, and sometimes, as on Chocolate Wings, they also converge. And even at its most bonkers – the pair of Wrong Rock and I Remember Johnny are a prime example – it’s still a lot of fun.

There’s a point just over half way through where everything comes together perfectly, as the perfect Swollen is followed by Welly Top Mary, then the ironically named Irritating NoisesA Ribbon for My Hair, and Always. If this isn’t an album of contrasts, then that’s only because it’s an exceptional piece when viewed as a whole.

Both of the full singles from this album, Always and Swollen are truly wonderful, the latter including a remix from François Kevorkian which is, of course, well worth hearing. In their album form they are six and seven minutes long respectively, and are entirely deserving of the space they have been given. You don’t often find music to this standard.

Closing this version of the album comes the pairing of Toothless Gibbon and Exercise 2, neither of which would have changed the world on their own, but they do close out an excellent album in a suitably bonkers manner. Ultimately Programmed to Love was just the start of an extremely strong career for Bent, but if this is all you remember them for, then that’s really no bad thing. Essential listening.

The 2002 version of Programmed to Love that we’ve reviewed here doesn’t appear to be as widely available any more – if you’re stuck, just grab whichever version is available to you, and go with that!