Monaco – Music for Pleasure

Sha la la la la la la. Yes, What Do You Want from Me? is an extremely good song. Peter Hook is on great form, the lyrics are better than many of New Order‘s and singer and guitarist David Potts was on fine vocal form too.

Music for Pleasure, released twenty years ago this week, was Peter Hook‘s second attempt at a solo project after 1990’s largely forgotten Revenge project. Monaco, though, were pretty successful for a while, and of course What Do You Want from Me? is the single you remember, with its enormous bass guitar part and all the sha la la-ing.

The album followed reasonably quickly after the single though, and third single Shine comes next, still sounding a lot like New Order, or even Electronic during this period. It’s a bit more rocky, and Potts can’t quite reach the high notes, but it’s still a great song.

Getting the singles out of the way right at the start, we then jump to Sweet Lips, which came out just before the album, and was also a pretty sizeable hit. It’s much more dancey than either of the other singles, and it’s another fantastically catchy song. The album version is a slightly extended mix, which works well too.

1997 was, of course, just a couple of years after Oasis had turned up and persuaded everyone to dig out their 1960s record collections, so it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Monaco wanted some of the action as well. Buzz Gum is a pretty respectable imitation of all the other indie stuff that was going on in the mid-1990s.

It’s tempting to wonder whether loading all the singles at the front of the album was the best idea – it started off so promisingly, but Blue is pretty dreary, although it’s also mercifully short. Then comes Junk, a nine minute dance piece, which actually sounds as dated as the indie tracks now, but it’s pretty good.

Billy Bones is a slightly trippy slow-rock piece, which is pretty pleasant, then Happy Jack is another low-grade indie track, this time with a particularly average vocal as well. Tender is better – if you’ve forgotten the album, this is the one with the catchy “in my mind I live in California” line.

Sedona (which is in Arizona, not California) is the last track, and is the best thing we’ve had on here since the singles at the start. It’s a huge, and epic piece, bobbing along at a fairly leisurely tempo, and with some slightly naff synth reed sounds, but it’s a clever exploration of sounds, and makes for a great instrumental closing piece. After a minute of silence at the end, someone turns up to add “Oi! You can turn it off now!”

Strictly speaking, I could have done that three quarters of an hour ago, but I didn’t. Music for Pleasure is a mixed bag, but when it’s good, it is very good indeed. And it clearly must have had some kind of impact on me – I would never have suspected it when the album came out twenty years ago, but now I do live in California. Thanks, Monaco!

You should still be able to find copies of Music for Pleasure floating around, but I’m not sure I would pay that much for them…

New Order – Get Ready

After eight long years of compilations and oddities, New Order came back in 2001 with Crystal. Reinvigorated by their recent side projects with ElectronicMonaco, and The Other Two (all of whom had managed exactly one very good album since 1993; two had also thrown out a less good one too), now they were back together to show the indie music scene how it was done.

Admittedly, they were a little late – they missed the bulk of the indie explosion by a comfortable margin – but they were just in time to turn up, show anyone else who was hanging around that they were largely recording dirges, and then disappear back into whatever hole it is that New Order hide in whenever they’re not releasing things. Well, except of course that the following year actually brought us the brilliant 24 Hour Party People and Here to Stay, but let’s leave that for that another time.

Get Ready is, though, like most of New Order‘s albums, a bit of a rollercoaster ride. Crystal is great, and accessible to many, and 60 Miles an Hour is a competent second track and second single too. Unlike the first, it was probably never going to find them too many new fans, but it kept plenty of people coming back for more.

However, it really is hard to imagine the collaboration with The Smashing Pumpkins‘s Billy Corgan really making too many people happy – it mainly seems to mean that New Order have gained another guitar line and another slightly questionable singing talent. Neither of which was exactly lacking anyway.

New Order being back together was really more than enough of a novelty, and the four-piece proved their brilliance with such understated works of genius as Vicious Streak, which, while not unexpectedly long, somehow seems as though it’s going to last forever. Primitive Notion is good too – much more of a rock piece than New Order ever used to present their fans with, but let’s just agree to see that as another string to their bow.

Admittedly, by Slow Jam you might find yourself dreaming of the beats of Blue Monday. There’s nothing wrong with this one, or Rock the Shack, the collaboration with The Jesus and Mary Chain‘s Bobby Gillespie, but New Order‘s sound was always so unique, whereas on Get Ready they just seem to be trying to find their feet again by trying to imitate what all the indie acts had been doing for the preceding five or six years. It’s not the most comfortable place for New Order to sit.

Get Ready does feel as though they were trying to practice what they preached – the instruction in the title is less for us, and more for them, as they learnt again what they were meant to sound like. When they get it right, as on Someone Like You, they’re absolutely brilliant, but a lot of this album falls a little short. For now, just enjoy how great they are when all the ingredients are right.

Close Range is good – but far from perfect. There are moments on here when it seems as though they’re just dialling it in. Bernard Sumner‘s lyrics are distinctly average (at the low end of the spectrum, it has been pointed out before that Crystal‘s somewhat confusing wording about buying honey with money could have done with a little more work, and there’s nothing on this whole CD that really grabs you and makes you think he’s pushing himself. Peter Hook‘s bass “hooks” seem a bit lacklustre here too.

So it’s really no major disappointment that Run Wild is the last track on here, closing things off with an unusually religious, Midwest American piece. It’s not great, but neither is it too bad either. Like the entirety of Get Ready, really. After Crystal, pretty much the best thing you can say about it is this: we had New Order back.

You can still find the original release of Get Ready at all major retailers.

Music for the Masses 23 – 24 October 2004

Three weeks in, and the newly reborn Music for the Masses radio show was finally starting to find a rhythm, even if it was just a week away from its end. Freed from the shackles of the playlists which dogged the show’s previous incarnation, there were now slots for forthcoming new releases, music news, and the new Artist of the Week slot. The laid back, late night nature of the music won the show a lot of praise – the fast talking of the presenter less so…

Show 23: Sun 24 Oct 2004, from 4:00am-6:00am

Broadcast on LSR FM, on FM and online. Artist of the week: Moby.

  • The Beloved – A Dream Within a Dream
  • Leftfield feat. Toni Halliday – Original
  • Monaco – What Do You Want from Me?
  • Moby – Porcelain
  • Röyksopp – Remind Me (Someone Else’s Radio Mix)
  • The Grid – Rollercoaster
  • Olive – Beyond the Fray
  • Depeche Mode – Enjoy the Silence (Reinterpreted)
  • Peach – From This Moment On
  • Moby – Heaven
  • Way Out West – Blue
  • Bent – Stay the Same
  • Alex Gold feat. Phil Oakey – LA Today
  • Gloworm – Carry Me Home
  • Dirty Vegas – Walk Into the Sun
  • Adamski (with Seal) – Killer
  • Erlend Øye – Sheltered Life (Radio Mix)
  • Beyer & Lenk feat. Tiga – Ananda
  • Moby – The Whispering Wind
  • 808 State – Pacific State
  • Jam & Spoon feat. Rea – Be Angeled

This show was recorded, and for the most part still exists. It will be posted as a Playlist for stowaways soon.

Music for the Masses 18 – 17 May 2000

One of the perils of the early days of Bay Radio was that it involved presenting from the DJ booth in the Aberystwyth student union. This meant that there was a fair chance that at some point your equipment might be suddenly removed for one reason or another…

show18

Show 18: Wed 17 May 2000, from 10.55am-1.00pm

Tracks taken from the playlist (Total 15 tracks). A indicates A-list (9 tracks); B indicates B-list (3 tracks) and C indicates C-list (3 tracks). S indicates the Single of the Week. R indicates tracks taken from my own collection (Total 8 tracks). L indicates the ones from the “library” (Total 5 tracks). X indicates tracks from other peoples’ record collections (Total 1 track).

  • 1. Muse “Unintended” A
  • [IRN 11.00 News]
  • 2. Watergate “Heart of Asia” A
  • 3. Planet Perfecto feat. Grace “Not Over Yet 99” R
  • 4. Richard Ashcroft “Song for the Lovers” C
  • 5. Inter “Radio Finland” B
  • 6. Wannadies “Big Fan” S
  • 7. Dubstar “Take It” L
  • 8. Billie Piper “Day & Night” A
  • 9. Sarah Cracknell “Coastal Town” R
  • 10. Asian Dub Foundation “New Way New Life” B
  • 11. Looper “Mundo 77” C
  • 12. Sneaker Pimps “Six Underground” L
  • [Advert Break]
  • 13. Jean Michel Jarre “Tout Est Bleu” R
  • 14. Chicane feat. Bryan Adams “Don’t Give Up” L
  • 15. Moby “Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?” L
  • [IRN 12.00 News]
  • 16. Beloved “Sweet Harmony” R
  • 17. William Orbit “Water from a Vine Leaf” [Part 1] R
  • 18. Elton John “That’s Why They Call it the Blues” [About 3 minutes thereof] X
  • 19. Looper “Mundo 77” [About 2 minutes thereof] C
  • 20. William Orbit “Water from a Vine Leaf” [Part 2] R
  • 21. Utah Saints “Funky Music” A
  • 22. Dum Dums “I Can’t Get You Out of My Thoughts” B
  • 23. Len “Cryptik Souls Crew” A
  • 24. Broadcast “Come On Let’s Go” A
  • 25. Dandy Warhols “Get Off” A
  • 26. Phoenix “Too Young” A
  • [Advert Break]
  • 27. Monaco “Sweet Lips” R
  • 28. Moloko “The Time is Now” L
  • 29. Andreas Johnson “Glorious” L

Producer: None.

Notes: Ooh crumbs, well I’m not one to moan. Well, not too much… but having your levels played with, the lights played with, your entire CD player equipment removed (yes, you guessed it, I didn’t actually choose to play Elton John. Or Looper a second time – especially given how much the latter resembles a pair of new born pants. Well, the former too actually, if it comes to that)…

New Order – Waiting for the Sirens’ Call

While the world waits for Peter Hook and the rest of New Order to finally patch up their differences and stop being quite so bitter, all we – and they – have is their back catalogue. The last full-length album Waiting for the Sirens’ Call was released this week a decade ago.

Opening track Who’s Joe? reveals a different sounding New Order to the one we encountered on Get Ready (2001). The rock overtones are still strong – the openly electronic indie sounds of the 1980s are long gone – but they seem to have found a new confidence somewhere. Bernard Sumner‘s vocals are stronger than before, and the whole sound is more cohesive. Even the lyrics – often a weak point for Sumner – seem to have some meaning behind them.

New Order have long struggled with albums – indeed, much of their back catalogue is best listened to as a single – but Waiting for the Sirens’ Call feels unusually complete. Hey Now What You Doing may sound more like Monaco than New Order in many ways, but it’s a strong second track, although it does see Sumner rhyming “hate” with “gate”, which I suspect wouldn’t have happened with Peter Hook‘s side project.

The third single and title track follows, treading more familiar New Order ground and, perhaps surprisingly, making it one of the weaker songs on the album. Then comes the first single Krafty, which isn’t bad by any means, but does seem an ill-advised choice to launch a release. Get Ready was heralded by the sublime Crystal, but I really can’t see anyone dashing out to buy an album on the strength of Krafty. Still, everyone who was going to buy it was probably already on their way to the shops anyway, so why not do something unexpected?

The brilliant electro-ska stylings of I Told You So follow, easily the best track on the album. At this point you realise the transition that’s taken place – the first couple of tracks were very rock-based, then there was a bit of Monaco, and now this could easily fit on the second Electronic album. Clearly a bit of rifling through the back catalogue has been going on here.

Morning Night & Day and Dracula’s Castle follow, both pleasant but a little forgettable, before the brilliant second single Jetstream, with Ana Matronic, although the album version does lack the punch of Richard X‘s production which makes the single version so good.

The catchy songs continue with Guilt is a Useless Emotion, perhaps not the most meaningful song ever, but a fun little synthpop piece which is entirely welcome, then Turn sees a return to the more indie feel of earlier songs. It also closes the Singles collection which was released later the same year, but on there it feels somewhat out of place alongside the rest of their back catalogue.

The closing track is aptly called Working Overtime, as it does seem to have a certain weariness about it. It’s an odd way to close an album, particularly one which had been going so well up to now – it’s tempting to wonder how many people press stop when this comes on, particularly given how good Turn was. But that’s a minor quibble with such a good album.

It’s difficult to know what might happen next with New Order – I suspect this might be a common feeling, but I for one don’t want to see them release anything without Peter Hook. At the same time, when their last new material was as good as this, it would be good to hear something new from them. Time will tell.

You can still find Waiting for the Sirens’ Call at all major online retailers, such as here.

Music for the Masses 13 – 15 March 2000

Very much in the spirit of recycling, Bay Radio playlists used to be printed on the back of scrap paper. So comments like, “Eat chips. Ooh baby,” should come as no surprise.

show13pl

Show 13: Wed 15 Mar 2000, from 10.55am-1.00pm

Tracks taken from the playlist (Total 13 tracks). A indicates A-list (7 tracks); B indicates B-list (3 tracks) and C indicates C-list (2 tracks). S indicates the Single of the Week. R indicates tracks taken from my own collection (Total 7 tracks). L indicates the ones from the “library” (Total 7 tracks).

  • 1. Bellatrix “The Girl with the Sparkling Eyes” C
  • [IRN 11.00 News]
  • 2. Madonna “American Pie” L
  • 3. Faithless “Salva Mea” R
  • 4. Ooberman “Shorley Wall” S
  • 5. Richard Ashcroft “Song for the Lovers” A
  • 6. Mishka “Give You All the Love” L
  • 7. Travis “Why Does It Always Rain On Me?” L
  • 8. Charlatans “Scorched” B
  • 9. Robert Miles “Children” R
  • [Entertainment Feature]
  • 10. Clinic “The Return of Evil Bill” A
  • 11. Human League “Stay With Me Tonight” R
  • 12. Chicane “Don’t Give Up” A
  • 13. Air “Playground Love” L
  • 14. Sparks “When Do I Get to Sing ‘My Way'” R
  • [IRN 12.00 News]
  • 15. Muse “Sunburn” C
  • 16. Andreas Johnson “Glorious” L
  • 17. David Arnold & Nina Persson “Randall & Hopkirk Theme” A
  • 18. Saint Etienne “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” R
  • 19. Beth Orton “Central Reservation” (The Then Again Mix by Ben Watt & chums) L
  • 20. Coldplay “Shiver” B
  • [Sport Feature]
  • 21. Beck “Mixed Bizness” A
  • 22. Patti Smith “Glitter in their Eyes” B
  • 23. Gene “As Good as It Gets” L
  • 24. Monaco “What Do You Want from Me?” R
  • 25. U2 “The Ground Beneath Her Feet” A
  • 26. Moby “Natural Blues” A
  • 27. Heaven 17 “Being Boiled” (Live) R

Producer: None.

Notes: To be honest, I can’t remember – maybe it was so bad… actually I can remember. There were lighting people there for ages at the start, making lots of noise, hence the lack of talking in the first half hour. The sports feature was appallingly bad (mistakes, mispronunciations… I mean, how many ways of pronouncing Basel are there? Baysel, indeed…) and beyond that I can’t remember a thing, so it must have been quite bad. It was nice to have features for a change though…

Music for the Masses 6 – 31 January 2000

The end of January 2000 saw this blog’s predecessor, the radio show Music for the Masses, return for another run of shows on Bay Radio, Aberystwyth’s student radio station.

show6

Tracks played on the sixth show, Mon 31 Jan 2000, from 11am-1pm

Tracks taken from the playlist (Total 13 tracks). A indicates A-list (7 tracks); B indicates B-list (3 tracks) and C indicates C-list (2 tracks). S indicates the Single of the Week. R indicates tracks taken from my own collection (Total 13 tracks). L is the ones out of the drawer (Total 5 tracks).

  • 1. Terris “The Time is Now” B
  • 2. The All Seeing I “1st Man in Space” R
  • 3. Oasis “Go Let it Out” A
  • 4. Kraftwerk “Expo 2000” (Kling Klang Mix 2002) R
  • 5. Space Brothers “Shine 2000” L
  • 6. Jay-Z “Anything” A
  • 7. Enigma “Gravity of Love” R
  • 8. Hepburn “Deep Deep Down” B
  • 9. The Clarke & Ware Experiment “Travel” (from Music for Multiple Dimensions) R
  • 10. Eiffel 65 “Move Your Body” L
  • 11. Death in Vegas “Aisha” A
  • 12. Raissa “How Long Do I Get?” S
  • 13. Everything But the Girl “Temperamental” R
  • 14. Rhinocerose “La Guitaristic House Organisation” C
  • 15. Tom Jones & Stereophonics “Mama Told Me Not to Come” A
  • 16. Monaco “What Do You Want From Me?” R
  • 17. Fungus “A Fanclub Would Be Nice” B
  • 18. Sarah Cracknell “Anymore” R
  • 19. Dario G. “Voices” L
  • 20. Yello “To The Sea” R
  • 21. Eels “Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues” A
  • 22. Pet Shop Boys “Lies” R
  • 23. Apollo 440 “Heart Go Boom” L
  • 24. Kelis “Caught Out There” A
  • 25. Missy “Misdemeanour” Elliot “Hot Boyz” A
  • 26. Yazoo “Don’t Go” (Todd Terry Freeze Mix) R
  • 27. Kawala “Humanistic” L
  • 28. Manic Street Preachers “You Stole the Sun from My Heart” L
  • 29. Wannadies “Yeah” A
  • 30. Tony di Bart “The Real Thing” R
  • 31. Robert Miles “Freedom” R

Producer: None.

Notes: Mmm, nice. Err… not a lot else to say really. Lots of noisy listeners too, which is scary. But there we go. Oh, and hilarious drying up to even more hilarious consequences at one point. Well, I thought it was funny…