Propellerheads – Decksandrumsandrockandroll

Propellerheads burst onto the lower reaches of the UK chart at the end of 1996 with Take California, scoring their most significant hit the following year with David Arnold‘s help on their version of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. They were a short-lived duo – Decksandrumsandrockandroll was their only full-length album release – but they were ambitious collaborators, and did manage something of an impact during their brief stay on the charts.

The album opens with the first hit Take California, a long and repetitive piece built around a fairly uninspiring sample. Then next is Velvet Pants – I hadn’t realised until listening this time around that I actually own the US version, which has a slightly different track listing to the UK one, so a track is missing here. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. As with the first track, it drags somewhat, but there’s a pleasant feel all the way through.

Better? might be a short track, but it’s far from a filler – it’s a sweet little jazzy track that fits nicely in between the bigger pieces. The UK version of the album then gets Oh Yeah? while the US version introduces De La Soul in a collaboration that seems to have been manned by Prince of all people – 360° (Oh Yeah?) is next, as an undemanding De La Soul vocal appears over the original track.

Oh, then Shirley Bassey turns up, delivering the vocal on the 1997 hit History Repeating. You can tell that Propellerheads are clearly big James Bond fans, and possibly for the first time on this album, it’s really rather brilliant

This is not so true for Winning Style or Bang On!, the latter sounding like early-90s era Moby when he was having one of his less creative days. But this is, broadly, a hip hop album, and so the short beatboxing of A Number of Microphones is appropriate, although not entirely welcome.

Finally, we get the hit single, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, in glorious nine-and-a-half minute form. It’s huge, and absolutely every bit as good as the original. This is pretty much what Propellerheads their fifteen minutes of fame, and deservedly so. Anything else is going to feel like filler, and so pleasant though the gentle acid of Bigger? may be, it feels a little bit pointless too. Cominagetcha is nice enough too, but seems a little drifty and directionless.

Spybreak! was another single, which snuck in at the bottom end of the top 40 in 1997. Again, it’s far from bad, but it’s nothing particularly special, and it also owes a lot to the preceding single Take California. I’m starting to wonder now why I liked this album – it seems very bland now.

Sure enough, Jungle Brothers turn up for the closing track You Want it Back, and it’s nothing special either. Two decades on, this is, sadly, a rather disappointing effort all round.

The version of Decksandrumsandrockandroll that was reviewed is still available from the US version of Amazon here.

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Hot Chip – Why Make Sense?

One of the fundamental rules of modern music seems to be that every so often, when you’re definitely not expecting it, Hot Chip will reappear with another album that turns out to be quite fantastic. So it was with One Life Stand (2010), In Our Heads (2012), and their most recent album Why Make Sense? (2015).

It opens with the cryptically (and unpronounceably) titled Huarache Lights. Everything it lacks in melody – and that’s a lot, it’s basically a chanted refrain with lots of beats – it makes up for in charming nod-your-head-to-the-beats catchiness. We might have forgotten about them a bit over the preceding three years, but Hot Chip were definitely back.

Next is Love is the Future, apparently a collaboration with one of De La Soul, although I’m not sure you would know this if you didn’t read the credits. He turns up half way through to deliver a bit of rapping. Mainly, though, for long-time fans of Hot Chip, it’s comforting to hear them return to their very earliest days with the sound of this track.

For the most part, though, this just seems to be another Hot Chip album. Cry for You and Started Right are nice, of course, but there isn’t a lot here that grabs you by the throat in the way Ready for the Floor did all those years ago.

They do, though, still comfortably have a talent for the dafter song. White Wine and Fried Chicken is an unexpectedly fun down-tempo piece. Then Dark Night is probably the closest we’ve come yet to Hot Chip‘s real trademark sound, although even this seems to be being downplayed here. They used to love trying to shock us, but perhaps that’s a thing of the past now.

None of this is really a criticism, though. They still have an inventive spirit, perhaps most obviously illustrated by the album’s artwork, which changes slightly from one copy to the next to end up with over 130,000 different combinations. I wonder how many copies the reall fans ended up having to buy to satisfy their collector-urge.

But while the shocking moments might be lacking, there’s still plenty on here to enjoy. Easy to Get is understated and very sweet. Then Need You Now, the first “proper” single from this album, which is deep and soulful and again, much quieter than anything Hot Chip have presented us with in recent years.

That seems to be the general theme with the latter moments of this album. So Much Further to Go is nice, but you’re hardly going to write home about it. Final track Why Make Sense? is what you’ve been waiting for all along – it’s probably the closest you’re going to get to the slightly daft hit singles from a decade or so ago. It’s great, but maybe it’s just a little late for the party.

In the end, Why Make Sense? is a good sixth album, but the lack of catchy singles maybe renders it a bit less good than the fifth, fourth, or third. But either way, it’s good to hear from Hot Chip again.

If you can find the version with the extra disc, that’s the one to go for. Otherwise, the standard edition is still widely available.

Chart for stowaways – 17 May 2014

We haven’t covered the albums much in detail recently, and there still isn’t a huge amount going on over there, but here are this week’s top ten:

  1. Moby – Innocents
  2. B.E.F. – Music of Quality and Distinction, Vol. 3 – Dark
  3. DARKSIDE (Nicholas Jaar) – Psychic
  4. Dirty Vegas – Let the Night EP
  5. De La Soul – Stakes is High
  6. Tiga – Ciao!
  7. Skywatchers – The Skywatchers Handbook
  8. Soulsavers – The Light the Dead See
  9. Ladytron – 604
  10. Art of Noise – Influence

Pet Shop Boys hold onto the top spot for a second week on the singles with the Flourescent 12″ single.

Chart for stowaways – 26 April 2014

Here are the top singles this week:

  1. William Orbit – Water from a Vine Leaf
  2. The Grid – Heartbeat
  3. Pet Shop Boys – Flourescent
  4. Mike Oldfield – Sentinel
  5. Moby feat. Wayne Coyne – The Perfect Life

And the top albums:

  1. Moby – Innocents
  2. B.E.F. – Music of Quality & Distinction Vol. 3 – Dark
  3. De La Soul – Stakes is High
  4. De La Soul – AOI: Bionix
  5. Depeche Mode – Black Celebration

Chart for stowaways – 29 March 2014

After a bit of a break while the album chart went a bit bonkers, it’s time for its return. It’s not a lot less bonkers:

  1. Moby – Innocents
  2. B.E.F. – Music of Quality & Distinction, Vol. 3: Dark
  3. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Organisation
  4. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Architecture and Morality
  5. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
  6. Chicane – The Best of 1996-2008
  7. De La Soul – AOI: Bionix
  8. Deep Forest – Deep Forest
  9. Enigma – The Screen Behind the Mirror
  10. The Clarke and Ware Experiment – Pretentious

The BRIT Awards 1991

On February 10th 1991, the BRITs took place at the Dominion Theatre in London, presented, perhaps appropriately, in the form of a voice over, by voice over artiste extraordinaire Simon Bates.

This post is part of a series about the history of the BRIT Awards. You can read about the 1990 ceremony here, and the 1992 ceremony in a couple of days’ time.

Best British Album

Presented by The Bee Gee Robin Gibb. Nominees:

  • The Beautiful South – Choke
  • Elton John – Sleeping with the Past
  • George Michael – Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1
  • Van Morrison – Enlightenment
  • Prefab Sprout – Jordan: The Come Back
  • Lisa Stansfield – Affection

Winner: George Michael

Best British Female

Presented by Annie Lennox. Nominees:

  • Betty Boo
  • Elizabeth Fraser
  • Dusty Springfield
  • Lisa Stansfield
  • Caron Wheeler

Winner: Lisa Stansfield

Best British Group

Presented by Roger Daltry. Nominees:

  • The Beautiful South
  • The Cure
  • Happy Mondays
  • Soul II Soul
  • The Stone Roses
  • Talk Talk

Winner: The Cure

Best British Male

Presented by Kim Appleby. Nominees:

  • Phil Collins
  • Elton John
  • George Michael
  • Van Morrison
  • Robert Smith
  • Jimmy Somerville

Winner: Elton John

Best British Newcomer

Presented by Jimmy Somerville. Nominees:

  • Beats International
  • Betty Boo
  • The Charlatans
  • Happy Mondays
  • The Las

Winner: Betty Boo

Best British Producer

Presented by Kim Appleby. Nominees:

  • Nellee Hooper
  • George Michael
  • Paul Oakenfold and Steve Osborne
  • Chris Thomas
  • Youth

Winner: Chris Thomas

Best British Single

Presented by Simon Mayo.

Winner: Depeche Mode – Enjoy the Silence

Best British Video

Presented by Philip Schofield and Simon Le Bon from off of Duran Duran. Nominees:

  • Adamski – Killer
  • The Beautiful South – A Little Time
  • The Beloved – Hello
  • Betty Boo – Where Are You Baby
  • The Cure – Close to Me
  • Depeche Mode – Enjoy the Silence
  • Go West – King of Wishful Thinking
  • Billy Idol – Cradle of Love
  • George Michael – Freedom 90
  • Seal – Crazy

Winner: The Beautiful South

Best Classical Recording

Nominees:

  • Matthew Best – Serenade to the Music
  • John Elliot Gardner – Vespers of the Blessed
  • Oliver Knussen – The Prince of the Pagodas
  • Zubin Mehta – In Concerto – Carreras
  • Kent Nagano – The Love for Three

Winner: Zubin Mehta

Best International Female

Presented by Paul Jones. Nominees:

  • Mariah Carey
  • Neneh Cherry
  • Whitney Houston
  • Janet Jackson
  • Madonna
  • Sinéad O’Connor
  • Tina Turner

Winner: Sinéad O’Connor

Best International Group

Presented by Shakin’ Stevens. Nominees:

  • B-52s
  • De La Soul
  • Faith No More
  • INXS
  • Roxette

Winner: INXS

Best International Male

Presented by Rick Astley. Nominees:

  • Jon Bon Jovi
  • MC Hammer
  • Michael Hutchence
  • Prince
  • Paul Simon

Winner: Michael Hutchence

Best International Newcomer

Presented by Chris Rea. Nominees:

  • Mariah Carey
  • Dee-Lite
  • MC Hammer
  • Maria McKee
  • Wilson Phillips

Winner: MC Hammer

Best Soundtrack / Cast Recording

Presented by Rick Astley. Nominees:

  • Angelo Badalamenti – Twin Peaks
  • Angelo Badalamenti – Wild at Heart
  • Maurice Jarre – Ghost
  • Various Artists – Days of Thunder
  • Various Artists – Pretty Woman

Winner: Twin Peaks

Outstanding Contribution

Presented by Terry Ellis.

Winner: Status Quo

Performances

Further Reading / Viewing

The BRIT Awards 1990

The annual British music industry bash had been growing in every way for a number of years. In 1988, it decided to improve itself by stopping being quite so corporate. In 1989, it changed its name to the BRIT Awards and nearly destroyed itself. After the unmitigated disaster of the 1989 ceremony, the 1990 awards switched to a different venue and was altogether a little more self-conscious.

The ceremony would sadly see the last public appearance of Freddie Mercury, but on a lighter note would also see Fine Young Cannibals justifiably return their awards in reaction to a video of Margaret Thatcher choosing her favourite pop song (How Much is That Little Doggie in the Window? although it sadly didn’t win any awards in 1990).

For now, though, it’s February 18th 1990, we’re at the Dominion Theatre in London, and Cathy McGowan out of The 1960s is your host for the evening.

There’s also an introduction video here.

Best British Newcomer

Presented by Tina Turner. Nominees:

  • Lisa Stansfield
  • Shakespears Sister
  • Soul II Soul
  • The Beautiful South
  • The Stone Roses

Longer video here.

Winner: Lisa Stansfield.

Best British Producer

Presented by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Nominees:

  • Coldcut
  • Dave Stewart
  • Kate Bush
  • Peter Gabriel
  • Steve Lillywhite
  • Stock Aitken Waterman

Winner: Dave Stewart.

Best Classical Recording

Nominees:

  • Jeffrey Tate – Piano Concerto 24 & 25
  • John Elliot Gardner – St Matthews Passion – Bach
  • Nigel Kennedy – Four Seasons – Vivaldi
  • Ricardo Chailly – Walton – Façade – Stravinsky
  • Simon Rattle – Porgy & Bess – Gershwin

Winner: Simon Rattle.

Best Soundtrack/Cast Recording

Presented by Sinitta, who gets carried on on a stretcher. Nominees:

  • Aspects of Love (Original Cast Recording)
  • Batman (Prince)
  • Beaches (various artists)
  • Henry V (Simon Rattle)
  • The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (Michael Nyman)

Winner: Batman.

Best British Group

Presented by Iron Maiden. Nominees:

  • Erasure
  • Eurythmics
  • Fine Young Cannibals
  • Simply Red
  • Soul II Soul
  • Tears for Fears

Video here.

Winner: Fine Young Cannibals.

Best Music Video

Presented by Bobby Brown. Nominees:

  • Billy Joel – We Didn’t Start The Fire
  • De La Soul – Eye Know
  • Eurythmics – Don’t Ask Me Why
  • Farley Jackmaster Funk – Free At Last
  • Four Tops – Loco in Acapulco
  • Guns ‘n’ Roses – Paradise City
  • Holly Johnson – Love Train
  • Janet Jackson – Miss You Much
  • Kaoma – Lambada
  • Lisa Stansfield – All Around the World
  • M – Pop Muzik
  • Neneh Cherry – Manchild
  • Paul McCartney – My Brave Face
  • Prince – Batdance
  • Queen – Invisible Man
  • Salif Keita – Nous Pas Bouger
  • Simply Red – If You Don’t Know Me by Now
  • Tears for Fears – Sowing the Seeds
  • The Alarm – A New South Wales
  • The Beautiful South – Song for Whoever
  • The Cure – Lullaby
  • Tina Turner – Simply the Best

Fortunately nobody had to read out that full list of nominees! Video here.

Winner: The Cure.

Best International Group

Presented by Ray Davis, a little too keen to remind us that The Kinks still exist. Nominees:

  • Bon Jovi
  • De La Soul
  • Guns ‘n’ Roses
  • Gipsy Kings
  • Milli Vanilli
  • U2

Video here.

Winner: U2.

Best International Newcomer

Presented by Gary Glitter, back in the days before we knew what we know now. Ugh. Nominees:

  • Bobby Brown
  • De La Soul
  • Guns ‘n’ Roses
  • Neneh Cherry
  • Paula Abdul

Video here.

Winner: Neneh Cherry.

Best International Solo Artist

Presented by Adam Ant. Nominees:

  • Bobby Brown
  • Gloria Estefan
  • Neneh Cherry
  • Prince
  • Tina Turner

Video here.

Winner: Neneh Cherry.

Best British Female

Nominees:

  • Annie Lennox
  • Kate Bush
  • Lisa Stansfield
  • Mica Paris
  • Yazz

Winner: Annie Lennox.

Best British Male

Nominees:

  • Chris Rea
  • Cliff Richard
  • Phil Collins
  • Roland Gift
  • Van Morrison

Winner: Phil Collins.

Best British Album

Nominees:

  • Eurythmics – We Too Are One
  • Fine Young Cannibals – The Raw and The Cooked
  • Simply Red – A New Flame
  • Soul II Soul – Club Classics Vol 1
  • Tears for Fears – The Seeds of Love

Winner: Fine Young Cannibals.

Best British Single

Voted for by the listeners of the Simon Mayo Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 1, and presented by Simon Mayo. Nominees:

  • Band Aid II – Do They Know it’s Christmas
  • Jason Donovan – Sealed With a Kiss
  • Jason Donovan – Too Many Broken Hearts
  • Jive Bunny & The Mastermixers – Swing the Mood
  • Jive Bunny & The Mastermixers – That’s What I Like
  • Jive Bunny & The Mastermixers – Lets Party
  • Lisa Stansfield – All Around the World
  • Marc Almond & Gene Pitney – Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart
  • Phil Collins – Another Day in Paradise
  • Simple Minds – Belfast Child
  • Sonia – You’ll Never Stop Me
  • Soul II Soul – Back to Life
  • Various Artists – Ferry ‘Cross the Mersey

An astonishing number of nominations, three of which were for Jive Bunny, but fortunately they didn’t manage to win. Unfortunately, um… well, watch the video here.

Winner: Phil Collins.

Outstanding Contribution

Winner: Queen.

Performances

  • Lisa Stansfield -Been Around the World
  • Neneh Cherry – Manchild
  • Nigel Kennedy – Vivaldi’s Four Seasons
  • Phil Collins – Another Day in Paradise
  • Soul II Soul – What is Soul II Soul

Further Reading / Viewing