Retro chart for stowaways – 15 May 2004

I’m off on my holidays at the moment, so here’s the album chart from twelve years ago this week!

  1. Air – Talkie Walkie
  2. Pet Shop Boys – PopArt
  3. Goldfrapp – Black Cherry
  4. Dido – Life for Rent
  5. Erlend Øye – Erlend Øye – DJ-Kicks
  6. Zero 7 – When It Falls
  7. Sugababes – Three
  8. Dubstar – Stars – The Best of Dubstar
  9. Bent – Programmed to Love
  10. Sparks – Lil’ Beethoven

Technique – Pop Philosophy

This week fifteen years ago saw the somewhat belated release of Technique‘s debut album Pop Philosophy. A two-piece consisting of infamous Creation Records boss Alan McGee‘s wife Kate Holmes and singer Xan Tyler, they secured the production talents of Stephen Hague, supported Depeche Mode on their Exciter tour in some parts of the world, and were pretty close to finding fame when everything seems to have gone a bit wrong. But more on that later.

The album opens with Sun is Shining, a sweet and simple pop song which is every bit as good as anything else that was on the charts in the mid-1990s. It’s uplifting, cheery, and frankly brilliant. This was also their first single, peaking at number 64 in 1999.

The second single follows, You and Me, which followed a few months later and peaked at number 56, and is another great pop song. So what went wrong exactly? Honestly, I suspect they were just too late. They weren’t alone – Peach suffered similarly by trying to enter the “clever synthpop” realm in 1996, and they failed to capture the popular imagination. Why would Technique have fared any better?

Ultimately, the only reason this album seems to exist is a 2000 Cantonese cover version of You + Me, which caused enough interest in the original for people to want to own the two singles, the five other complete tracks, and two remixes by Matt Darey. Those other five tracks are good, although there isn’t really anything up to the standard of either of the singles here. Unity of Love is a pleasant enough song, as is Wash Away My Tears, but there isn’t a lot else that you can say about them.

There are others which show potential – There’s No Other Way is pretty good. Deep and Blue is pleasant enough, although lyrically it’s a bit… well, I want to call it “wet”, but the lyrics are about the deep blue sea, which makes me even worse. Quiet Storm is bloody awful, but it’s the only thing on here that is.

I had always assumed the somewhat makeshift track listing was due to the band not having finished much else, but it turns out that there’s an earlier version of the album with a whole load of other songs on it. Maybe they just picked out the least bad ones for this release. Who knows?

Either way, history may have forgotten Technique, but this one little album isn’t at all a bad way to remember them. If nothing else, it’s worth having for Sun is Shining and You and Me, as well as the remixes of each of them. Honestly these are both fairly typical Matt Darey trance mixes – they start off with just a kick drum on every beat, and slowly grow into something enormous. They’re nothing particularly groundbreaking, it’s true, but they’re great nonetheless.

Oh, and if you were wondering what happened next… well, Xan Tyler was unable to turn up for the Depeche Mode tour, so Dubstar‘s Sarah Blackwood was draughted in at the last minute. Technique then rebranded as the briefly brilliant Client, and gained a sizeable cult following before eventually Xan Tyler turned up again in 2011 as Sarah Blackwood‘s replacement. Yes, I know it’s confusing – just nod politely…

You can still find Pop Philosophy on import from major retailers, such as here.

Looking back at 2015

As always, we started the year with some bold predictions about what 2015 might hold. Let’s see how accurate they actually were!

January

We jumped into the New Year by marking post number 909, just because…

February

We finally finished our comprehensive history of the BRIT Awards! You can read the Complete Guide here.

March

March saw us revisit the archives of this blog and everything that came before it, with reviews of Depeche ModeEnigmaErasure, and others.

April

In April, we celebrated the 1000th post on this blog. Awesome. Quantity rulez.

May

May saw exciting new releases from Jean-Michel JarreHot Chip and Leftfield – which is a lot to fit into one month.

June

June saw us rolling back to the early 1980s, and reviewing a-ha and OMD.

July

As the official UK charts officially moved to Fridays, we celebrated our third anniversary and gave up on Sunday posting (probably for the sabbath, or something).

August

August for stowaways saw reviews of oldies from Goldfrapp and Dubstar!

September

September finally saw the last installment (for now) of our Beginner’s guide series. Collect the full set here!

October

October this year saw us counting down to the Q Awards and the Mercury Prize!

November

November saw the introduction of a brand new feature on this blog, Vinyl Moments – which hopefully will be back soon!

December

Sees us celebrating the Christmas and New Year period yet again. As the Germans say, have a good slide into 2016!

Dubstar – Make it Better

Dubstar must have been pretty nervous fifteen years ago when releasing their third album Make it Better. After the success of Disgraceful (1995), their second album Goodbye (1997) had been less accomplished but still performed well, and now they were back with a completely new sound. How would it perform?

Fortunately, the opening track Take It is absolutely brilliant. What a way to kick the new album off! It’s huge, full of enormous synth lines and a great catchy chorus. To call it a return to form would be unfair, as they were always pretty good, but it’s definitely a good start.

Lead single I, here without its subtitle (Friday Night), comes next. In a way, it’s a curious choice for lead single – there are plenty of others which might have been better, but at the very least it really would have made people prick up their ears and listen.

Ultimately this album’s tale isn’t entirely a happy one, just because it would be Dubstar‘s last, and second single The Self Same Thing is a reminder of this – it’s a lovely song, but it was tucked away as a non-chart-qualifying release (admittedly with some great b-sides). But for all its hidden melancholy, this is a great album, as the cover version of Mercury proves. Driven by a catchy guitar riff and full of droning noises, this is a very different Dubstar from the band we knew an album or so ago.

Stay, with its slightly existential statement that Sarah (Blackwood) will Make it Better, is a fun diversion, although it does feel as though the later “Let daddy make it better” line might be a little bit sinister. This is definitely a schizophrenic collection.

Another Word takes you back to the 1960s somehow with its strangely retro sound, and then When the World Knows Your Name is a curious, introspective piece. Arc of Fire is nearly extremely good, but is let down by a rather awkward melody line.

Tucked away towards the end is the lovely Believe in Me, undoubtedly the best song on this album. This is a great little guitar-based pop piece, although it does take you back to 2000 slightly with a reminder that everyone else in the pop world had really “done” indie by this stage and were moving back to electronic music. Dubstar‘s noisy period seems to have come at slightly the wrong time unfortunately.

The previous album Goodbye had suffered a little from including too many tracks, and Make it Better seems to have a bit of filler too. I’m Conscious of Myself is fun, but Rise to the Top is, possibly for the first and last time in their career, really not that great.

Then, finally, we get the lovely Swansong, the closing track both of this album and also pretty much of this trio’s career. It’s a lovely piece about regrets and memories, and it does actually make for a rather sad listen now, so many years later. Their career barely lasted half a decade, but they should definitely be remembered with fondness.

Even now, fifteen years on, there is intermittent talk of a Dubstar comeback, but you probably shouldn’t hold your breath. But they were great in the 1990s, and even in 2000 they were good, so maybe the time for them to return has finally come.

You can still find Make it Better through all the normal places.

Music for the Masses 27 – 22 November 2004

Show 27 was, judging from the pictures and playlist, a blistering affair, involving lots of waving hands around in the air like I just didn’t care, and finally seeing Kraftwerk as the artist of the week.

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Show 27: Mon 22 Nov 2004, from 6:05pm-8:00pm

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

  • Gorillaz – Clint Eastwood
  • Tears for Fears – Shout
  • Röyksopp – Poor Leno
  • Utah Saints – Lost Vagueness
  • Télépopmusik – Genetic World
  • Sugababes – Too Lost in You
  • Kraftwerk – Radioactivity
  • Alpinestars – Green Raven Blonde
  • Vic Twenty – Kiss You
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Electricity
  • Heaven 17 – Dive
  • Wolfsheim – Kein Zurück
  • Dubstar – It’s Over
  • Kraftwerk – Computer Love (The Mix Version)
  • Ladytron – Blue Jeans
  • Komputer – Looking Down on London
  • Paul van Dyk feat. Vega 4 – Time of Our Lives
  • Yello – Get On
  • Wes – Alane
  • Kings of Convenience – Know-How
  • Tiga & Zyntherius – Sunglasses at Night
  • Audioweb – Into My World
  • Kraftwerk – Tour de France

Chart for stowaways – 25 April 2015

Here are the top 10 singles for this week:

  1. MG – Europa Hymn
  2. Étienne de Crécy – Hashtag My Ass
  3. VCMG – EP3 – Aftermaths
  4. Erlend Øye – La prima estate
  5. Étienne de Crécy feat. Pos & Dave – Wtf
  6. Röyksopp – I Had This Thing
  7. Shit Robot feat. Nancy Whang – Do That Dance
  8. VCMG – EP2 – Single Blip
  9. Jolly Music – Radio Jolly
  10. Dubstar – Cathedral Park