My Robot Friend – Hot Action!

My Robot Friend was already a couple of years into his career before I accidentally found the original 2002 version of his debut album Hot Action! on sale in a record fair, and by this time I was already aware of some of his better known tracks. Having started out as a MySpace musician, he seems to have made a name for himself by making excellent, eccentric music, and not a lot else.

The album opens with the beatsy and somewhat intimidating I Am the Robot, and if you can handle its energy, you’ll quickly realise that it’s actually fantastic. Then Sex Machine will always have a special place in my heart, thanks to its inclusion on the brilliant Robopop Vol. 1 compilation (which I should definitely review here at some point). It’s a little more vulgar than I normally like my music to be, but it’s another brilliant track.

There’s little here that’s longer than three minutes, and so the great tracks come flying. You’re Out of the Computer tells the story of an angry hacker who has a grudge to bear against a rival. One general theme on this album is very eccentric samples, and the dog barks used as thwacky snares at times on this track are particularly brilliant.

Why Won’t You Call Me Back? is probably one of the more normal tracks on here, but it still hides some very odd lyrics, lots of telephone noises, and a whole load of other things in amongst the acid noises and guitar work. OK, this is every bit as odd as everything else.

However used you might be, five tracks in, to the unexpected samples, there’s very little that could prepare you for the table tennis percussion of The Power of Love. It’s quite fantastic, and there’s really no point in any further discussion on the matter.

After the sudden end of that track, anything could happen. But there’s no way you would ever expect the soft synth pads of the amazing We’re the Pet Shop Boys. It was so good, so accurate, that not only Pet Shop Boys themselves covered it the following year, but also Robbie Williams covered it on his Rudebox album. It’s completely spot on – every sound, melody, and lyric seems to have been designed to directly reference something that Pet Shop Boys themselves did. It’s not a pastiche; it’s a carefully crafted and perfect homage, that reaches its pinnacle in the middle section, in which Mr. Robot Friend holds his nose to make himself sound a bit more like Neil Tennant, and lists some of Pet Shop Boys‘ hits.

Really, anything was going to be a disappointment after that – those first six tracks seem to have been fighting one another to out-bizarre each other, and that had to reach its pinnacle by the halfway point on the album. Sure enough, Understand Your Man is a bit dull, which I suspect would have been true at any position on the album, but it’s particularly true here.

The good stuff is far from over, though – The Fake tones down some of the oddness but makes up for it by being a great song, and then I Know What Women Want brings it back and builds a whole song around very silly samples and acid noises. But it’s the lyrics that are truly brilliant here – “I know what women want; I decide what women want” is clever stuff.

But there are a lot of tracks on here, and after the onslaught at the start, there was bound to be a bit of a period where they didn’t quite hit as hard. For me, this is the trio of Boing!Way Down, and Walking Jewish, none of which seem entirely necessary on here, really. They’re mercifully short, but they don’t seem to add much.

But the thing about My Robot Friend is that he always seems to have one more surprise up his sleeve, and sure enough, Walt Whitman is brilliant. It’s not a typical closing track, by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a great song, and I’m glad to see it tacked on here, closing out this exceptional debut.

None of the physical formats of Hot Action! appear to be available any more, but the digital release does get you some extra tracks, which may be worth having.

Music for the Masses 37 – 23 April 2005

The post-Easter run of shows introduced two new features, both pre-recorded mixes. The Live Bit consisted of ten minutes or so of live material, while the Electromix was a trio of dark electronic tracks mixed together. I had a lot of fun with this week’s by trying to censor My Robot Friend‘s track in creative ways.

webcamf1webcamf2 webcamf3 webcamf4

Show 37: Sat 23 Apr 2005, from 6:00pm-8:00pm

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

  • Jakatta – American Dream
  • Björk – Army of Me
  • Lemon Jelly – Make Things Right
  • Faithless – Tarantula
  • Delerium – Daylight
  • Alpinestars – Burning Up
  • Portishead – Sour Times
  • Happy Mondays – Hallelujah
  • Groove Armada – At the River (Live) [The Live Bit]
  • Client – White Wedding (Live) [The Live Bit]
  • Erlend Øye – Sudden Rush
  • Paul Keating (Closer to Heaven Original Cast Recording) – Positive Role Model (The Almighty Definitive Mix)
  • Delerium – Fallen
  • Moby – Spiders
  • Everything But The Girl – Mirrorball (Jazzy Jeff Remix)
  • Ultravox – Vienna
  • Tiga & Zyntherius – Sunglasses at Night
  • Delerium feat. Sarah McLachlan – Silence
  • Death in Vegas – Hands Around My Throat [Electromix]
  • My Robot Friend – Sex Machine [Electromix]
  • Leftfield – Phat Planet [Electromix]
  • Goldfrapp – Hairy Trees

The Live Bit and Electromix features from this show both still exist, and will appear in a future Playlist for stowaways.

Beginner’s guide to My Robot Friend

You might have come across My Robot Friend by name rather than anything else, but he has at least a couple of album’s worth of excellent material behind him already.

Key moments

Building an entire rhythm section based on the sounds of a table tennis game with The Power of Love, and getting the sound of Pet Shop Boys down to a T with We’re the Pet Shop Boys.

Where to start

Start with the self-released debut Hot Action! (2002) – ideally the 2004 version with bonus tracks. At least half of it will make you laugh, surprise you, or just generally be worth hearing.

What to buy

The most recent album, 2009’s Soft-Core has plenty to say for itself, including a collaboration with Alison Moyet. The 2012 one-off single Goodbye was the best track he’d released for a long time, so hopefully it won’t be the last we hear from him.

Don’t bother with

The 2006 second album Dial 0, which sadly includes very little of note.

Hidden treasure

Having said that, the cover of Blondie‘s Rapture which appears on the second album is definitely worth hearing, so it isn’t entirely without merit.

For stowaways

  • No posts yet

Chart for stowaways – 28 December 2013

Well, it’s March, which seems perfect timing to catch up on the Christmas chart for stowaways for last year (OK, we really need to work on this backlog, don’t we?)

The singles:

  1. Röyksopp feat. Susanne Sundfør – Running to the Sea
  2. My Robot Friend – Creep
  3. Pet Shop Boys – Flamboyant
  4. Paul Hartnoll – The Sea Devils
  5. Kings of Convenience – Rule My World

That means, incidentally, that Running to the Sea was the Christmas number 1 for Röyksopp and Susanne Sundfør in both 2012 and 2013! Which is why this chart is clearly better than anything “official”.

And the albums:

  1. Napoleon – Magpies
  2. Way Out West – We Love Machine
  3. Air – Talkie Walkie
  4. Bent – Best Of
  5. Front Line Assembly – Civilization

A slight onslaught of oldies there, which the first few weeks of 2014 should take care of…

Chart for stowaways – 21 December 2013

Since we’re running so far behind schedule now with the charts, and since very little of interest was going on in early December anyway, let’s jump forwards to the chart for the week before Christmas. Here are the singles:

  1. Röyksopp feat. Susanne Sundfør – Running to the Sea
  2. Delerium feat. Kreesha Turner – Dust in Gravity
  3. My Robot Friend – Creep
  4. Pet Shop Boys feat. Example – Thursday
  5. Kosheen – Harder They Fall
  6. Paul Hartnoll – The Sea Devils
  7. Kings of Convenience – Rule My World
  8. Starwalker – Bad Weather
  9. Erasure – Gaudete
  10. Depeche Mode – Should Be Higher

Chart for stowaways – 28 July 2012

All change on the singles chart this week:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Winner
  2. Hot Chip – Now There is Nothing
  3. Saint Etienne – I’ve Got Your Music
  4. Sébastien Tellier – Cochon Ville
  5. Soulsavers – Longest Day
  6. My Robot Friend – Goodbye
  7. Ladytron – Ace of Hz
  8. Portishead – The Rip
  9. Gossip – Move in the Right Direction
  10. Hot Chip – Night and Day

There are a number of entries for Chicane, Hot Chip, and Saint Etienne bubbling under just outside the top ten.  On the albums, Hot Chip score a fourth week at the top, while Sébastien Tellier sneaks up to number two, Ladytron jump in at four, and Jean Michel Jarre enters at nine.

Chart for stowaways – 21 July 2012

Back on the bus. The top ten singles this week:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Winner
  2. My Robot Friend – Goodbye
  3. Soulsavers – Longest Day
  4. Gossip – Move in the Right Direction
  5. Hot Chip – Night and Day
  6. Portishead – The Rip
  7. Sébastien Tellier – Divine
  8. Pet Shop Boys – Invisible
  9. Annie – Anthonio
  10. Saint Etienne – I’ve Got Your Music

Fourth week at the top for PSB (two weeks for Invisible followed by two for Winner. Hot Chip are still topping the albums for the third week, and are about to break onto the single chart big time. Finally, Sébastien Tellier dominates the albums with My God is Blue in at 3 and Sexuality slipping to 12.

Compiled for Music for stowaways by ROLLO from a sample of one person’s listens.

Chart for stowaways – 7 July 2012

The top ten singles this week:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Invisible
  2. Sébastien Tellier – Divine
  3. Pet Shop Boys – Winner
  4. Saint Etienne – I’ve Got Your Music
  5. Hot Chip – Night and Day
  6. Shit Robot – Teenage Bass
  7. My Robot Friend – Goodbye
  8. Soulsavers – Longest Day
  9. Kontravoid – Silent Visions
  10. Gossip – Move in the Right Direction

A second week at number one for PSB. Meanwhile, Hot Chip catapult to the top slot on the album chart, pushing Saint Etienne off after their five week stay at the top.

Compiled for Music for stowaways by ROLLO from a sample of one person’s listens.