I just read the news and felt I had to break my silence on this blog for this – but I hope you’re not reading it here for the first time. Depeche Mode‘s Andrew Fletcher, or “Fletch” as everyone seems to have known him, died today, much too young. Here’s some coverage thanks to The Guardian and the BBC.

Obviously, this is a sad loss for all fans of electronic music, who were already reeling after the loss of Vangelis just a few days ago. As was often the case, Fletch hides in the background of this video, but the song seems appropriate. Goodnight Lovers.


Nine years of stowaways

Firstly: happy ninth birthday to this blog!

Secondly: sorry that you find us in the middle of a quiet period! Trying to continue blogging through a pandemic and with a growing family turned out to be chaotic, to say the least. You’ve still seen about 140 posts since the first lockdown hit this part of the world, and some of those even have some interesting content, so we’ve done OK.

I’m working on a number of projects at the moment, and unfortunately the blog isn’t quite getting the attention it deserves. That will start to change over the next couple of months, so we’ll be back soon – with actual content, as well, such as reviews! But for now, please be patient, and continue to…

Stowaway World Cup – Week 4

Well, what a week that was. If you cared, which you probably didn’t.

Throughout May, we’ve been playing the Stowaways World Cup, an entirely pointless contest in which we pitted 32 of the most-mentioned artists on this blog against one another, based on a mixture of randomness and their past credentials, with a very unhealthy dose of biased refereeing.

There were disappointments right from the start – Sparks could have easily progressed to the latter stages, but never managed to win a single game. The Beloved repeatedly lost their only player due to fouls (that was, in retrospect, a little unfair, so the rules were changed for later rounds). Even Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark failed to progress beyond the group stages due to performing slightly less well than Röyksopp.

The group of 16 saw surprises too, with two group winners and blog stalwarts being knocked out by group runners-up. By the last few matches, the finalists were increasingly closely matched. Erasure suffered a run of games ending with penalty shootouts, Pet Shop Boys, who had had a fairly clear run to the final, snuck an extra goal in at the end of extra time, and won the final, taking away the not-coveted Stowaway Cup. For the record, these were our final top four:

  1. Pet Shop Boys
  2. Erasure
  3. Depeche Mode
  4. New Order

Which is a pretty respectable result. We’ll take a short break on this blog now, but we’ll be back in a week or so with the regular schedule of posts.

Stowaway World Cup – 3rd & 4th Place Runoff

Here we are at last, at the battle for third and fourth place, where Depeche Mode meet New Order. Both slipped out of the semi-finals by the narrowest of narrow margins, and both have a similar pedigree, so this could be anybody’s game. Let’s see how things look after the first half.

  1. 3+3. No goal.
  2. 5+1. No goal.
  3. 1+1. No goal.
  4. 5+2. No goal.
  5. 1+2. No goal.

Well, it seems there isn’t a lot of enthusiasm to go out and win this game – both teams are playing defensively. Hopefully the second half will give us a little more drama!

  1. 3+3. No goal.
  2. 1+2. No goal.
  3. 1+6. No goal.
  4. 3+3. No goal.
  5. 5+2. No goal.

Still nothing! We’ve only had a couple of goalless matches in the whole competition before now, so now we have to go to extra time.

  1. 3+1. No goal.
  2. 4+2. Finally! Goal for most single releases. Depeche Mode have 55, while New Order have 44, plus 5 EPs. Goal for DM. 1-0.
  3. 6+5. Things are hotting up. Goal for most impressive haircut. Easy goal for some of Depeche Mode‘s eighties looks. 2-0.
  4. 2+3. Goal for highest number of views of a post on this blog. That would be the Beginner’s guide to Depeche Mode, with over 600 views. 3-0.

So, finally, after extra time, an exhilarating 3-0 win for Depeche Mode. They take third place overall, pushing New Order into fourth.

Stowaway World Cup – Semi-Final 2

In the second semi-final, Pet Shop Boys take on New Order. Both have won all their games to date, so this really is a battle between two giants. Each has particular strengths and weaknesses which could make all the difference in this game. Let’s see what happens in the first half.

  1. 3+5. No goal.
  2. 6+4. Goal for worst performance in previous games. So much for dice throws – this seems to have come up nearly every game since it was introduced after the group stages. In this instance, it does little good – neither team has had any particular struggles, so the referee rules that this is no goal.
  3. 6+4. That’s a foul. 4+4. The referee was a bit confused, so no penalty.
  4. 1+2. No goal.
  5. 1+6. No goal.

For the first time in the last couple of rounds, the game is scoreless at the halfway point. There was a bit of fumbling during the second and third rolls, but nothing much happened otherwise. Hopefully there will be a bit more offensive action in the second half.

  1. 1+6. No goal.
  2. 1+3. No goal.
  3. 5+1. No goal.
  4. 6+3. Goal! Finally! Goal for most innovative recording. That has to be Blue Monday, so New Order take a very late lead. 0-1.
  5. 2+6. Goal for percentage of members who have remained. Pet Shop Boys equalise. 1-1.

So, after a couple of late goals, we’re still on level pegging. Maybe extra time can help decide this one.

  1. 4+2. Goal for most single releases. Pet Shop Boys have 65, while New Order have just 44. So PSB lead 2-1.
  2. 2+4. Goal for quality of last album. Little could ever top Music Complete, so New Order equalise. 2-2.
  3. 2+1. Goal for most charismatic performer(s). There’s one more goal chance after this, but it might be the decider. The referee is struggling, as neither has a lot of onstage presence. He rules no goal.
  4. 3+6. No goal.

There’s little change in the score after extra time, so this match goes to the dreaded penalty shoot-out.

  1. Pet Shop Boys: 1+2. No goal.
  2. New Order: 6+5. No goal.
  3. Pet Shop Boys: 3+1. Goal! 3-2.
  4. New Order: 6+6. Goal! 3-3.
  5. Pet Shop Boys: 1+5. Goal! 4-3.
  6. New Order: 4+5. No goal.
  7. Pet Shop Boys: 3+1. Goal! 5-3.
  8. New Order: 6+1. No goal, and New Order can no longer catch up.

So that’s it, decided by penalties. Pet Shop Boys advance to the final to play Erasure, and New Order take on Depeche Mode in the decider for third and fourth place.

Stowaway World Cup – Semi-Final 1

Now we reach the first of our semi-finals, where former labelmates and bandmates Depeche Mode meet Erasure. Depeche Mode struggled to second in their group, but then walked through the group stages and quarter finals, while Erasure were the strongest performer overall in the group stages, but have struggled with two penalty shoot-outs in both of their last two games. The referee may have to make some awkward decisions about Vince Clarke‘s allegiances between the two teams, since he’s been in both. So let’s see how the first half shapes up:

  1. 1+1. No goal.
  2. 6+1. Goal for best song. There are plenty of contenders, but maybe that’s Enjoy the Silence or Ship of Fools. Depeche Mode sneak the edge. 1-0.
  3. 4+4. No goal.
  4. 3+6. No goal.
  5. 6+4. Goal for worst performance in previous games. This one again! Technically Depeche Mode have a loss, while Erasure have a healthy portion of near-draws. 2-0.

So at the end of the first half, Depeche Mode have snuck two goals ahead, but each by the narrowest of narrow margins. What will happen in the second half?

  1. 1+4. No goal.
  2. 2+5. Goal for best artwork. It’s time for Erasure to sneak in a close goal. 2-1.
  3. 6+6. No goal.
  4. 2+5. Foul. 2+6. Erasure equalise with their penalty! 2-2.
  5. 4+2. The last-minute deciding goal. Goal for most single releases. Depeche Mode have 55, while Erasure have 54, but also 7 EPs, at least three or four of which were big hits with radio play for at least one of the tracks. If you need a tie-breaker for this goal attempt, we can also discount Vince Clarke‘s early work for Depeche Mode, so Erasure clinch a late victory. 2-3.

So Erasure are our first finalists, and we’ll see them again on Sunday. Depeche Mode will be back on Saturday to try to steal third place from the loser of tomorrow’s game.

Stowaway World Cup – Week 3

After the relative excitement of Erasure versus Kraftwerk yesterday, this seems a good time to take a quick breather. The last week has seen us work through the group of 16 and half of the quarter finals, so we now know half of our semi-finalists. We’ve had a number of shocks and surprises, and there are two quarter finals left:

  1. Pet Shop Boys versus Air, which will be played tomorrow
  2. David Bowie versus New Order, coming up on Wednesday

So this is what the semi-finals look like right now:

  1. Depeche Mode versus Erasure, which will be on Thursday
  2. Pet Shop Boys or Air, versus David Bowie or New Order, on Friday

Hopefully Depeche Mode‘s match against Erasure won’t involve another penalty shoot-out, as Erasure‘s last two games have been thrilling, nail-biting, events. Would have been, anyway, if this contest were actually of any interest to anybody.

Saturday will see the battle for third and fourth place, and the all-unimportant final is this Sunday. So let’s enter the last week of this “thrilling” competition, and see how it all pans out.

Stowaway World Cup – Quarter Final 1

So, here we already are, at the first quarter final, an exciting pairing of Depeche Mode versus the odd couple of Madonna and Yazoo. Both teams were runners-up in the group stages after two wins and a loss each, but then beat their opponents to sneak through to the quarter finals. Let’s see how the first half plays out!

  1. 3+5. No goal. A quiet start from these two great teams.
  2. 4+2. Goal for most single releases. Depeche Mode have 55, whereas Madonna takes a clear lead with 88. 0-1.
  3. 4+4. No goal.
  4. 5+4. No goal.
  5. 2+6. Goal for percentage of members who have remained. Depeche Mode has hung onto three of its original four. Technically Madonna has retained 100% of her line-up (herself), but for this category we have to include Yazoo as well, neither of whom are currently in the band. The rules are every bit as stupid as this whole competition, I’m afraid, but this is an equaliser for Depeche Mode. 1-1.

So, a 1-1 draw at the half way mark. Let’s see how things develop in the second half!

  1. 2+2. No goal.
  2. 1+2. No goal.
  3. 5+2. No goal.
  4. 1+5. No goal.
  5. 2+6. That’s a repeated throw, so a foul. 4+2. Depeche Mode are awarded a late penalty, and score, winning the match 2-1.

After all that, to decide the match on a penalty seems a little unfair on Madonna and Yazoo, but if you play dirty, you get what you deserve. The odd pairing had worked in their favour in earlier games, but comes back to bite them now. So our first semi-finalists are Depeche Mode, going through to the final four.

Stowaway World Cup – Group of 16 – Games 1 & 2

Game 1: Jean-Michel Jarre versus Depeche Mode

The first game after the group stages is a thrilling face-off between two giants, with the winner of Group A taking on the runner-up of Group B.

  1. 3+2. No goal.
  2. 2+1. Goal for most charismatic performer(s). That’s an early goal for Dave Gahan. 0-1.
  3. 6+1. Goal for best song. Enjoy the Silence clinches it. 0-2.
  4. 5+6. No goal.
  5. 6+1. Foul. 2+3. Penalty for Depeche Mode, but no goal.
  6. 5+6. No goal.
  7. 5+4. No goal.
  8. 1+1. No goal.
  9. 3+2. No goal.
  10. 2+1. Foul. 5+5. The referee didn’t see it, whatever happened. Depeche Mode win 0-2, and progress to the quarter finals.

Game 2: Kylie Minogue versus Madonna and Yazoo

The Australian goddess takes on the bizarre supergroup of Madonna and Yazoo.

  1. 3+4. No goal.
  2. 2+2. No goal.
  3. 1+1. No goal.
  4. 1+5. No goal.
  5. 5+3. No goal.
  6. 3+1. No goal.
  7. 4+5. Goal for most hits on UK album chart. Kylie has 30 and Madonna has 28, but it looks as though the reissues bring them to around 27 each. Yazoo‘s 3 could be added on to give them a slight edge, but that seems a bit unfair too. Referee rules no goal.
  8. 3+5. No goal.
  9. 2+3. Goal for highest number of views of a post on this blog. Yazoo to the rescue, with 210 views for the review of Only Yazoo. 0-1.
  10. 6+4. Another last minute goal. Goal for worst performance in previous games. This was added to help the underdog from time to time, but there really isn’t one here. Kylie won every game so far, whereas Madonna and Yazoo lost to Jean-Michel Jarre in the first game of the tournament, so that clinches a win for the supergroup. 0-2.

Stowaway World Cup – Week 2

So, we reach the end of the group stages, in this entirely pointless competition. There were a few surprises. Group A saw Jean-Michel Jarre and Madonna and Yazoo advance. Group B was led by Kylie Minogue and Depeche Mode, while Sparks crashed out without a single win. Group C was led by Erasure and Massive Attack, and Group D by Kraftwerk and Goldfrapp. Group E saw The Beloved knocked out, with Pet Shop Boys and I Monster leading the pack. Group F was led by Air and Röyksopp, with OMD and Enigma knocked out. Group G was led by David Bowie and The Human League, and Group H by New Order and The Future Sound of London.

So those are the Group of 16, with some tricky games coming up this week, and at the end of this week we’ll also enter the all-unexciting quarter finals. So it’s a good time for some tweaks to the rules for the remainder of the competition.

Going forward:

  1. You need an outright win – no more draws. We’ll have 4 throws of extra time, followed by penalties.
  2. 6+6 is no longer a foul. Instead, a repeated throw is a foul, but only if it was going to be a goal attempt. If it’s a pair, we’ll ignore it, but if not, the foul was committed by the higher-scoring side (left = left team, right = right team). If the sum of the dice is even, it’s a scored penalty.
  3. To reduce the number of goal chances, any double throws are no goal from now on.
  4. Most of the goal-scoring categories will change to a new set of spurious deciders.