Artist of the Week – Moby

The scheduling must have shifted a bit at some point, as this one is listed as the first artist of the week, but was definitely broadcast first, around 4.20am (!) on the third week of the radio show Music for the Masses, back in late 2004.

As before, apologies in advance for any inaccuracies, errors, hyperbole, or plagiarism in this piece – it was written twelve years ago and intended to be read out loud…

I want to kick off by explaining a little bit about [Moby‘s] musical career. He first picked up the name Moby as a child, being the great great grand-nephew (or something) of the Moby Dick author Herman Melville. During his relatively troubled childhood, he became passionate about music, particularly punk and John Lydon‘s Public Image Limited, among others.

Whilst at college, he formed several punk bands, none of which saw any great success, but in the late 1980s he moved to New York, and started DJing and making music for small underground record labels. In particular, he came up with a number of pseudonyms to become the driving force behind Instinct Records, who would go on to release several compilations of his early material.

After several underground successes, he first became known in the UK with his phenomenal hit Go, which drew heavily on Angelo Badalamenti‘s score for the David Lynch TV series Twin Peaks. After a few false starts, the single reached number 6 in the UK, and was a huge hit across the world.

During the early 1990s he would remix countless major acts, including Michael JacksonPet Shop BoysBrian EnoDepeche  ModeErasureThe B-52s, and Orbital, and in 1993 he was signed to the London-based label Mute Records.

His first proper album Everything is Wrong would explore and thoroughly question the different aspects of dance music, and would yield single after single in the UK, all of which were substantial hits. The follow-up though, 1996’s Animal Rights would throw dance out of the window, and turn to hard rock instead.

In 1997, following his fantastic reworking of the James Bond theme, he released a compilation of film tracks, entitled I Like to Score, and following this, he would see his greatest success ever, even if it took rather a long time to grip the world’s consciousness.

The first single from Play was Honey, and was released in mid-1998. At this time the album was already completed, but was delayed as he didn’t have a US record company. On its original release in the UK, it peaked at number 33 and in the US it only scraped the top 100. However, after prostituting every single album track, b-side, and remix onto films and adverts, he finally had his first US hit, and climbed his way up to the top of the UK charts. The album would eventually become so successful that no fewer than eight singles were released in the UK.

The follow-up, 2001’s 18 was seen by many as a disappointment, perhaps simply because it wasn’t adventurous enough. It’s a beautiful album though, and still yielded several hit singles and topped the charts again in the UK. After seeing underground success with his Voodoo Child side-project, his next proper album is due in the spring.

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Record Store Day 2014

Despite all my reservations about Record Store Day (mainly, the fact that only eBay sellers actually seem to get anything out of it), it’s hard not to get excited. So given the chance, you should probably think about finding your local record shop this Saturday, and seeing what might grab your fancy.

Here are some of the more interesting releases this year:

  • Amorphous Androgynous (sometimes also known as The Future Sound of London) – The Cartel & Remixes (2xLP, UK only)
  • Art of NoiseLive at the End of a Century (LP picture Disc, 500 copies, UK / Germany / Netherlands / Belgium only)
  • David Bowie1984 Picture Disc (7″, 4,000 copies, US / Canada only) and Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide (picture disc, Germany / Netherlands / France / Belgium only)
  • ChromeoEzra’s Interlude / Over Your Shoulder (7″, Germany / Netherlands / Belgium only)
  • CHVRCHESRecover EP (12″, 2,500 copies, US / Canada only) and We Sink (7″, UK / Germany only)
  • Cut CopyIn These Arms of Love / Like Any Other Day (10″, 2,000 copies, US only)
  • DevoButch Devo and the Sundance Gig (Vinyl / DVD, 1,750 copies) and Live at Max’s Kansas City – November 15, 1977 (12″, 2,000 copies, US only)
  • Everything But the GirlEden (30th Anniversary Edition) (gatefold clear LP, UK / Germany / Netherlands / Italy / France / Belgium only)
  • Gemma RayDeath Disc (7″ picture disc, Germany / Netherlands only)
  • Inspiral CarpetsDung 4 + The Cow EP (LP + 7″, UK / Germany only)
  • Joy DivisionAn Ideal for Living (1978) (12″, 7,500 copies, US / Canada / Italy / France / Belgium only)
  • LCD SoundsystemThe Long Goodbye (LCD Soundsystem Live at Madison Square Garden) (5×12″, 3,000 copies)
  • David LynchThe Air is on Fire (LP, 1,000 copies) and The Big Dream Remix EP (12″, UK / Germany / Netherlands / France / Belgium only)
  • MGMT – Congratulations (180 gram 2xLP, 1,000 numbered copies) and Oracular Spectacular (180 gram LP, 1,500 numbered copies)
  • Kylie MinogueGolden Boy (7″, Germany / Netherlands / Canada / France only)
  • The NotwistRun Run Run (12″, 1,770 copies)
  • Nova Nova & Peter HookLow Ends (Original and Slabb Remixes) (7″, UK only) and Low Ends (Thierry Criscione Remixes) (7″, UK only)
  • Pet Shop BoysFlourescent (12″, UK only)
  • The SpecialsSock it to ’em J.B. / Rat Race (7″, 1,000 copies, certain US / Canada / Belgium locations only)
  • Tears for FearsReady Boys & Girls (10″, 3,000 copies, US only)
  • Sébastien TellierL’Incroyable Vérité (LP, UK / Germany / Canada / France only)
  • The TheGiant (12″, 2,000 copies)
  • Tracey ThornMolly Drake Songs (7″, UK only)

I’ve done my best to get the territories right, but you’ll probably want to cross-check with the lists here if there’s something specific you’re after…

Last year’s list, if it’s still of interest, was here.

Claudia Brücken – The Lost Are Found

Part of the reason for keeping this blog running for so long is that it has helped me find out about new music, where otherwise it might have just passed me by. Claudia Brücken‘s last album The Lost Are Found is a perfect example of this – I simply never would have known about it if I hadn’t chanced upon it earlier this year, while writing another piece.

Brücken has a slightly bizarre, illustrious career, which we examined in more detail a year or so ago when reviewing the brilliant Combined compilation. On this latest album, she has expanded on the brilliant Thank You by working again with producer/genius Stephen Hague to record an entire album. Curiously, it’s also a cover versions album, and it includes some very odd choices – some good; others not so special – but all interesting.

It opens with The Mysteries of Love, written by David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti for the Blue Velvet soundtrack, and originally performed by Julee Cruise. Without Cruise’s haunting vocal style it’s perhaps not the strongest opener ever, but it’s a pleasant enough track. Next up is Memories of a Color, packed with bizarre pad sounds. The original was Swedish singer Stina Nordenstam‘s debut single in 1992, and on this album it helps to build a pleasant mood which prevails throughout the entire release.

The Day I See You Again was originally performed by Dubstar back in 1995, and curiously although much of that album was produced by Stephen Hague, this track was not. Although not tremendously different from the original, it’s still an extremely good song, and the duo of Brücken and Hague do it justice.

The single Everyone Says “Hi” was a David Bowie original, curiously not one of his oldies, taken instead from his 2002 album Heathen. On this album it makes for a great pop track, and is definitely one of the highlights of the whole collection.

One Summer Dream, written by Jeff Lynne, feels a little out of place in the middle of the album with its acoustic backing. The original closed ELO‘s 1975 album Face the Music, and it’s tempting to wonder if it worked rather better in that context – it still sounds good, but it’s not as beautiful as it perhaps ought to be.

Crime is another Stina Nordenstam song, originally from her 1994 second album And She Closed Her Eyes. As with The Mysteries of Love, it’s nice, but not entirely mindblowing. Perhaps even with a legend of the calibre of Brücken it pays to lower your expectations a little. Then The Road to Happiness was written by Stephen “TinTin” Duffy for The Lilac Time‘s eponymous 1987 debut, and is a surprising highlight of the album. There’s something very special about the uplifting chorus, as it comes together with the almost accordian-flavoured backing.

Next up is Kings Cross, which as I’m sure we all know is a Pet Shop Boys original, a haunting track from their essential 1988 album Actually, also covered a couple of years ago by Tracey Thorn. Curiously, this one was originally produced by Stephen Hague, and so it’s interesting to hear what he does with it this time around. Although the song is just as powerful as ever, I think it perhaps lacks something from the original – but not a lot. It’s definitely one of the highlights of this release as well.

No One to Blame is a new track, written for the album by a duo called The Burt Brothers. It’s a good fit, and the flanged piano backing suits the semi-electronic mood of the album very well. And the Sun Will Shine is a Bee Gees original, from their 1968 album Horizontal. Stripped of their unique vocal style, it’s still a strong song with the typical soaring backing that seems to echo through their back catalogue. It sounds a little inconsequential at times, but it’s a typically good song.

Then the closing track is Whispering Pines, originally performed by The Band on their 1969 eponymous second album. Although it’s a nice enough song, by this stage it’s starting to sound a bit samey – it would be nice to have a bit of Hammond Organ or something to liven things up. It’s closing a good album – but not an amazing one unfortunately.

The Lost Are Found is, ultimately, perhaps a little underwhelming, but that’s only because of the sheer weight of the names behind it. Produced by Stephen Hague, one of the most important producers of electronic music in the 1980s and 1990s. Performed by Claudia Brücken, one of the best-kept secrets of electronic music throughout its history. And written by an astonishing list of songwriters. It really ought to be breathtaking, and it is pretty good, but there just seems to be something lacking. It’s still worth hearing though – the four or five exceptional tracks more than make up for its failings.

You can find The Lost Are Found through all standard music retailers, such as Amazon.