Artist of the Week – Erasure

Here’s another old Artist of the Week feature from my old radio show. It probably wasn’t researched very well, and so may contain plagiarism, errors, and omissions. My sincere apologies if so.

The story begins way back in 1981, when Vince Clarke was briefly a member of the gods of electronica Depeche Mode. After the first album, musical differences forced him out of the band, leaving just as their popularity was growing. Following this, he and Alison Moyet formed Yazoo, who saw huge success during their brief but stormy reign over the charts between 1982 and 1983.

After their split, Vince joined with producer Eric Radcliffe to form a group called The Assembly, where the intention was that they would produce tracks with different singers. After one huge hit, Never Never, and one flop, they called it a day.

It was during the auditions for The Assembly project [I’m going to add my own “citation needed” tag here] that Vince first came across singer Andy Bell. They started working together, and had soon completed the first album Wonderland. However, for whatever reason, the debut was never a substantial hit, and only yielded one minor hit single, so it wasn’t until the second album The Circus came out that they were propelled to the top end of the charts by the universal hit Sometimes.

Further albums followed, with The Innocents bringing more success, and, at the end of the 1980s, they turned away from their traditionally analogue sounds to produce Wild!, their second number one album, which also brought them four top twenty hit singles.

For 1991’s Chorus they returned to a very analogue sound to produce what is commonly thought to be their best album to date. Again, a further four huge hits ensued, and in mid-1992, they followed this with an obscure collection of cover versions which brought them their biggest hit to date, the huge summer smash Abba-esque EP.

Their return in 1994 with I Say I Say I Say brought them further hits, but by the mid-1990s, a combination of being overwhelmed by Britpop and spending too much time experimenting meant they were starting to lose their touch. This began in earnest with 1995’s eponymous album, which turned their previous sound on its head with ten-minute instrumentals and ambient tracks.

In 1997 they tried to get a foot back in the door with Cowboy, a collection of 3-minute pop songs, which were widely ignored by the record-buying public. In 2000, they tried to tap the remnants of the indie explosion with Loveboat, a predominantly acoustic guitar-based album, which barely even managed to scrape into the charts.

It was finally last year that they managed their comeback, through the all-too-popular medium of a cover versions album. The wittily titled but frankly awful Other People’s Songs managed to grab them a little bit of the limelight they deserve, and helped their second singles compilation into the top end of the charts.

So what now? Well, they’re still very analogue, and rumour suggests that they’ve now gone all electro on us, following recent successes from the likes of Röyksopp and Mirwais. The album is released on January 24th, preceded by the single Breathe on the 3rd.

Madonna – Confessions on a Dance Floor

Whatever you thought of her in the 1980s, by the turn of the 21st century it was hard not to have some respect for Madonna. Her ability to bring together some of the finest producers in the world of electronic – even if only by virtue of the size of the paycheck – was impressive to say the least.

After collaborating with William Orbit and Mirwaïs on previous releases, on Confessions on a Dance Floor, it was the turn of Stuart Price, once styled Jacques Lu Cont of Les Rhythmes Digitales.

Confessions on a Dance Floor starts with Hung Up, modelled around Gimme Gimme Gimme. The nice thing about taking other people’s songs as a starting point is that you can pretty much guarantee yourself a hit, and so it was with Hung Up, which peaked at number 1 all over the place. Rightly so – it’s a great song.

Other songs miss the mark slightly – third single Get Together is a bit chaotic, apparently based on Music Sounds Better with You (possibly played backwards?) Despite having confusing lyrics and no particular hooks, it still grabbed a top ten spot in the UK, and was a decent hit elsewhere too.

Second single Sorry follows, the track that Pet Shop Boys really brought to life with their remixes. Leaving aside the appalling foreign pronunciations, it’s a pretty good song, but does lack a bit of substance in its original form. If only Madonna could write lyrics like Neil Tennant – this could have been the blueprint for their Electric album.

As it is, there’s an early lull with the dull Future Lovers and the abominable I Love New York, neither of which has anything particular to offer the world. Neither is particularly long, but both seem as though they go on forever. Madonna isn’t a good lyric writer, and rhyming “New York” with “dork” is neither funny nor clever unfortunately. Other singers have got across a similar message much more eloquently.

Having worked through that, however, Let it Will Be and Forbidden Love are actually both pretty good – both are catchy pop songs, again with slightly daft lyrics, but that’s forgivable sometimes. Actually, in many ways both are better than the other single, Jump, which follows, and is decent, but ultimately has relatively little to offer except the word “jump” in the chorus.

You could probably skip the rest of the album and not miss too much. How High is catchy but lacking in any particular substance. Isaac has some nice vocal samples, but not a huge amount else. Push is kind of catchy but ultimately forgettable, and Like it or Not has a nice cheeky rhythm and burbly bassline, but it’s just an average pop song in the end.

So that’s Confessions on a Dance Floor – a mature and competent album from a global superstar who would sell a lot of records even if she released a CD of herself snoring. But when she works together with the right team, Madonna is still capable of creating interesting music, and for that she has to be applauded.

You can still find Confessions on a Dance Floor through your regular retailers at a bargain price.

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.

Music for the Masses 32 – 16 February 2005

Always keen to try new features on the show, the Spring term had seen my try out the Unsigned Act feature, where I would try to give a new or unsigned artist a bit of free airtime, with no strings attached (well, except they had to be good). In the end, it was a bit of a failure, as pretty much everyone who showed an interest failed to submit anything on time. One of the few exceptions was Blue Swan, whom we also covered here on the blog.

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Show 32: Wed 16 Feb 2005, from 6:05pm-8:00pm

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

  • BT – Love, Peace and Grease
  • Conjure One – Centre of the Sun (29 Palms Remix)
  • Dave Gahan – I Need You
  • Mirwais – Naïve Song
  • Leftfield – Afro-Left
  • Faithless – Don’t Leave
  • Bomb the Bass – Winter in July
  • Echoboy – Lately Lonely
  • Groove Armada – At the River (Live)
  • Blue Swan – Black Widow [Unsigned Act]
  • Jollymusic feat. Erlend Øye – Talco Uno
  • Faithless feat. Dido – One Step Too Far
  • Electribe 101 – Talkin’ with Myself 98 (Beloved Mix)
  • Vic Twenty – Sugar Me
  • Moby – Left Me Up
  • Étienne de Crécy – Am I Wrong?
  • Yazoo – Don’t Go
  • Faithless – Mass Destruction
  • Deep Dish – Stranded
  • Goldfrapp – Utopia

Music for the Masses 31 – 9 February 2005

It’s always a pleasure to be able to hide the odd nine-minute gem in the middle of a radio show, such as the brilliant Virus Mix of Everything But The Girl‘s Lullaby of Clubland. Surprisingly, the webcam shows me looking relaxed in the extreme.

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Show 31: Wed 9 Feb 2005, from 6:05pm-8:00pm

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

  • The Grid – Heartbeat
  • Trance Atlantic Air-Waves – Chase
  • Sylver – Take Me Back
  • The Human League – Love Me Madly?
  • Everything But The Girl – Lullaby of Clubland (Virus Mix)
  • The Postal Service – We Will Become Silhouettes
  • Inspiral Carpets – Saturn 5
  • Massive Attack – Unfinished Sympathy
  • Camouflage – The Great Commandment
  • Visage – Fade to Grey
  • Pet Shop Boys – How Can You Expect to Be Taken Seriously? (Ragga Zone Remix)
  • The Orb – Once More
  • Massive Attack – Karmacoma
  • Mirwais feat. Craig Wedren – Miss You
  • Lemon Jelly – The Slow Train
  • Moby – Lift Me Up
  • Mylo – Destroy Rock and Roll
  • Ron Grainer – Doctor Who Theme
  • Massive Attack – Butterfly Caught (Paul Daley Remix)
  • Kings of Convenience – Know-How

Music for the Masses 25 – 8 November 2004

After four weeks in the graveyard shift, Music for the Masses made its triumphant return to prime time, of sorts, on Monday evenings from 6-8pm. This made very little difference, except that the presenter (hi) was rather more awake.

Show 25: Mon 8 Nov 2004, from 6:05pm-8:00pm

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

  • I Monster – Daydream in Blue
  • Goldfrapp – Train
  • Étienne de Crécy – Am I Wrong?
  • Bent – Comin’ Back
  • Zero 7 – Destiny
  • Donna Summer – I Feel Love
  • Air – Le Soleil est Près de Moi
  • Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – Fifteen Feet of Pure White Snow
  • The Human League – Shameless
  • Lemon Jelly – The Staunton Lick
  • Mirwais – Naïve Song
  • Depeche Mode – Halo (Goldfrapp Mix)
  • The Shamen – Indica
  • Air – Playground Love
  • Andy Pickford – Black Dress
  • Lionrock – Tripwire
  • Enigma – Boum Boum (Chicane Mix)
  • Faithless – Miss U Less, See U More
  • Camouflage – Love is a Shield
  • Ultravox – Vienna
  • Air – Cherry Blossom Girl

The second half of this show still exists as a recording and will feature as a future Playlist for stowaways.

Music for the Masses Demo Tape – 11 May 2002

In May 2002, I recorded a 20 minute demo show as part of an unplanned interview for a radio job, and I can’t actually remember now whether I turned it down or whether I didn’t get the job because I was rubbish (I probably was).

This was the last of the original run of shows for Bay Radio, Aberystwyth’s student radio station.

Demo Tape: Sat 11 May 2002, from 12.55pm-1.15pm

  1. Mirwais – Naïve Song
  2. Moby – We are All Made of Stars
  3. Pet Shop Boys – I Get Along
  4. Delerium feat. Rani – Underwater
  5. Jam & Spoon feat. Rea – Be Angeled

Notes: Not bad, but very rusty after not having done it for nearly two years. And completely unplanned, of course.