Greatest Hits – Vol. 7

As we worm our way gently into 2016, it’s time to highlight a few reviews from this blog that you might well have missed.

See also, Volume 6, Volume 5, and you can probably find the rest for yourself with a quick search…

Music for the Masses 40 – 14 May 2005

This was the last ever Music for the Masses, just a little over a decade ago, and it would go out with nothing but a sombre wave on the webcam, ten minutes before the end. Over the preceding five years, I had immensely enjoyed doing the show, and would spend another eight years or so wondering how to recapture those times. Eventually, it was reincarnated in the shape of the blog you’re reading today.

The last track had to be, of course, the fantastic Sweet Harmony by The Beloved.

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Show 40: Sat 14 May 2005, from 6:00pm-8:00pm

Broadcast on LSR FM, online only. Artist of the week: Everything But The Girl.

  • Portishead – Glory Box
  • Basement Jaxx – Where’s Your Head At
  • Kings Have Long Arms feat. Phil Oakey – Rock & Roll is Dead
  • Sohodolls – Prince Harry
  • Everything But The Girl – Missing (CL McSpadden Powerhouse Mix)
  • Underworld – Pearl’s Girl
  • Client – Don’t Call Me Baby
  • Saint Etienne – Only Love Can Break Your Heart
  • Garbage – The World is Not Enough
  • Everything But The Girl – Walking Wounded
  • Wolfsheim – Kein Zurück (Live) [The Live Bit]
  • Vic Twenty – Wrong
  • Moby – Raining Again
  • Luke Slater – I Can Complete You
  • Röyksopp – Poor Leno
  • Everything But The Girl – Blame
  • Jean Michel Jarre – Oxygène (Part 2)
  • Goldfrapp – Tiptoe [Electromix]
  • Jolly Music – Radio Jolly (ADULT Remix) [Electromix]
  • Massive Attack – Butterfly Caught (Paul Daley Remix) [Electromix]
  • Alpinestars – Green Raven Blonde
  • The Beloved – Sweet Harmony (Live the Dream Remix)

The Electromix feature from this show still exists, and will be included on a future Playlist for stowaways.

Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder – Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder

It must have seemed a little strange back in 1985, when Phil Oakey, already well established as the frontman of The Human League, recorded an album with electronic producer and mastermind Giorgio Moroder. After the success of Together in Electric Dreams, released the preceding year from the film Electric Dreams (previously covered here) they decided – or were persuaded – to create a full album.

It kicks off with something of a bang, with the huge drums and orchestral hits of Why Must the Show Go On. It’s a great, catchy, pop song – very much stuck in the 1980s, but somehow different enough from The Human League‘s recent output to stand apart somewhat. It morphs into a slightly strange short instrumental called In Transit before a very uncomfortable segue into the single Goodbye Bad Times.

This was the second single, and the one which really launched the album (there was a long gap between the first and this one, presumably while they went away to record the album). It’s a competent song, but you can’t help but feel it’s a little bit forced – Phil Oakey has said before that the album was recorded extremely quickly, and you have to wonder whether it shows in a couple of places.

The pace doesn’t slow with Brand New Love (Take a Chance), which after another awkward segue seems to be playing at several hundred beats per minute. It does have some particularly nice elements though, with some great lyrics from Oakey and a lovely bass part.

With another clunky jump, Valerie is upon us. It has one of the best melodies on this release, with some slightly odd watery backing noises, and in a sense works extremely well, although even if the singles had performed less badly, I can’t see them ever considering this as one. This is a short and frantic album, and that ends Side A already.

Side B opens with Now, presumably an homage to the compilation series of the same name. At this time, with a couple of decades’ experience in the music industry, Moroder clearly knew how to craft a pop song. This is firmly bedded in the eighties, as you might expect, but as with everything else here, it’s a catchy little thing too.

Then comes the moment we’ve all been waiting for – Together in Electric Dreams is finally upon us, and for the first time on this album it comes without being mixed into its neighbours. It’s essentially just the original single version, but it would be churlish to complain – this is an exceptional song which is now regularly performed by The Human League as though it’s one of theirs. And rightly so.

Final single Be My Lover Now follows. It’s a good song, although again it feels a little rushed. The second and third singles were basically flops, and in retrospect the reasons should be clear – while some songs feel a little rushed, they are good, but really most people were only ever going to buy this album for the first thing they had heard.

Then we’re onto the final track already, the slightly daft but extremely catchy Shake it Up. You really could blink and miss this album, and I suspect the annals of music history have, for the most part, long since forgotten about it. But for all its failings, what it doesn’t lack is great, catchy songs, and at only half an hour in duration, you really have nothing to lose by giving it a go.

There’s a lovely 2003 remaster of this album which includes most of the tracks off the singles, and is well worth tracking down.

Music for the Masses 24 – 31 October 2004

The last Sunday in October 2004 saw the last ever (to date) FM outing of the Music for the Masses show. While this was something of a shame, not having to get up at 3am every Sunday morning and cycle across a bleak northern city was generally a good thing. And since I didn’t know whether this could even be my last ever radio show, the obvious choice for Artist of the Week was my long-time favourite act, Pet Shop Boys.

Show 24: Sun 31 Oct 2004, from 4:00am-6:00am

Broadcast on LSR FM, on FM and online. Artist of the week: Pet Shop Boys.

  • Depeche Mode – Enjoy the Silence (Reinterpreted)
  • Everything But The Girl – Hadfield 1980
  • Death in Vegas – Aisha
  • New Order – True Faith
  • Pet Shop Boys – I’m Not Scared
  • Erasure – Piano Song
  • Deep Forest – Will You Be Ready?
  • Client feat. Carl Barât – Pornography
  • White Town – Duplicate
  • Wolfsheim – Kein Zurück
  • Pet Shop Boys – Always
  • Faithless – Swingers
  • Utah Saints – What Can You Do for Me?
  • The All Seeing I feat. Phil Oakey – 1st Man in Space
  • Delerium feat. Sarah McLachlan – Silence (Above & Beyond Remix)
  • Kraftwerk – Computer Love (The Mix Version)
  • Pet Shop Boys – Miracles
  • Sparks – My Baby’s Taking Me Home
  • Basement Jaxx – Rendez-Vu
  • Rob Dougan – Clubbed to Death

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 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.

The Human League – Octopus

Things really fell apart somewhat for The Human League after 1983’s Hysteria. The now-dead music newspaper Melody Maker once made a joke about how they would make a new album every time there was a World Cup, and it wasn’t too far from the mark. In 1986 they travelled to the US to record Human (most people will have long forgotten Crash, the album from which it appeared), and then there was an album in 1990 too, which slipped under most people’s radar, the somewhat iffy Romantic?

Five years on, with relatively little in between, and under such circumstances, Octopus would really be the “comeback” album that long forgotten artists are known for. It opens with the completely brilliant first single Tell Me When, a song which somehow manages to both represent the sound of The Human League while also sounding (for the mid 1990s) very contemporary. It was, entirely justifiably, a pretty sizable hit.

Second comes the equally brilliant These are the Days, with its enormous analogue backing noises. This is an album which is firmly bedded in the mid-1990s, but that’s absolutely no failing. As is often the case with Phil Oakey‘s lyrics, there are a few where you sit up and ask yourself whether you actually heard them sing that (“Hey, hey, live today / It’s time to put the past away,” is far from a bad lyric, but it does come a little bit out of nowhere).

Then comes the second single One Man in My Heart, wonderfully, and unusually, led by Susan Ann Sulley. It does go a bit high for her in places, and in brilliant League fashion, they have made absolutely no attempt to cover this up, but actually it’s probably her best vocal performance on any release – and it’s great to see Oakey taking a back seat too, exploring different directions for the trio. It’s very catchy too – if you’re not singing along within the first minute then you have no soul.

There are only nine tracks on here, but despite that, they have managed to take the album in some very interesting directions. The deeply atmospheric Words is another example of this – perhaps the darkest track on here, but still catchy and quite exceptional.

Side A closes with the third single Filling Up with Heaven, which wasn’t an enormous hit unfortunately, but perhaps this is understandable – it’s not as immediately catchy or exploratory as its neighbours. Still great, but not quite as great as the rest. If they could have somehow fit the exceptional non-album single Stay with Me Tonight on here, it would not have been a bad fit.

The latter half of the album is generally darker and a little less commercial. Houseful of Nothing, a song about being alone in a house and finding it a bit creepy, is every bit as good as anything else on the album, but it would be hard to imagine it as a single.

The instrumental John Cleese; is He Funny? (Yes; He is) follows. This is perhaps the one and only weak link on the album – it’s a fun, catchy instrumental, but it does seem a little pointless too. There were some remixes on the back of the Filling Up with Heaven single which took it in slightly more interesting directions, but on the album it does feel a little bit like a filler.

Never Again has no such problems. It’s fairly raw and cut back, but it’s another exemplary song. As the trio’s vocals combine for the chorus, you have to wonder slightly how things could possibly have gone so wrong for them in the late eighties, if they were capable of songs as good as this.

The closing track is Cruel Young Lover, and clocking in at just under seven minutes it’s one of the longest tracks ever recorded by The Human League. The ever changing refrain of “Do you hear me?” is a little bizarre, and it’s maybe one of the less catchy tracks on the album, but it still manages to bring the release to a close in fine form. In short, if they ever needed to prove themselves, they did so with Octopus in style.

So 1995 found The Human League at the top of a late peak in their career, and importantly so – without albums like this they could very well have remained just another forgotten act from the 80s. Everything came together perfectly – the artwork was great, the songs were flawless, and the production was brilliant.

Listening to it now, Octopus has dated somewhat, just like all The Human League‘s releases, but it’s dated in an enormous analogue mid-90s way, which would be difficult to view as anything other than A Good Thing.

The original release of Octopus seems to have drifted out of print in the last two decades, but second hand or download versions are widely available here.

The Best Singles of 2003

I recently found this document in my archives, dated November 2003…

Conjure One “Sleep / Tears from the Moon” (Nettwerk; January; #41)

An amazing debut for Rhys Fulber’s solo project (he’s more commonly known as half of Delerium), which is taken to new heights by remixes from Tiësto and Ian van Dahl. This is how dance should sound in the twenty-first century.

Conjure One “Centre of the Sun” (Nettwerk; August; #83)

Although not quite as instantly catchy as its predecessor, this single boasts some fantastic electroclash and retro remixes from the likes of JXL and Pete Lorimer.

Dirty Vegas “Simple Things” (Parlophone; March; NCQ)

Another great track from the fantastic eponymous debut album, including live acoustic tracks and deep and dark remixes, showcasing all the different sides of the band.

Front Line Assembly “Maniacal” (SPV; October; no UK release)

I bought this because I’d heard a few tracks by the band (who are, rather confusingly, the same people behind Delerium) and knew their reputation, and was totally blown away by this release. Dark and powerful industrial electronica.

Dave Gahan “I Need You” (Mute; August; #27)

One of the best tracks from the Depeche Mode frontman’s debut solo album, including remixes from Ladytron and Gabriel & Dresden and exclusive tracks across the different formats.

Alex Gold feat. Phil Oakey “LA Today” (Xtravaganza; April; #68)

A slightly odd track that sounds something like a cross between the Human League and Dirty Vegas, but essential nonetheless.

Goldfrapp “Train” (Mute; April; #23)

Fantastic comeback from Goldfrapp including an exclusive track and remixes, and welcoming them into the electroclash arena.

Lemon Jelly “Nice Weather for Ducks” (XL; February; #16)

Huge airplay propelled this querky but endearing track towards the right end of the charts. Unfortunately the single is fairly sparse, but it’s worth getting for the main track if nothing else. And of course it’s got beautiful packaging.

Yoko Ono “Walking on Thin Ice” (Parlophone; April; #35)

Worth buying not for the track itself but for the fantastic Pet Shop Boys remixes on the second CD, which introduce beautiful rippling retro analogue synths and prove that the lads have still got it.

Erlend Øye “Sheltered Life” (Source; July; #93)

Fantastic remix for the second single from the debut solo album from half of Kings of Convenience that frankly ought to have been a huge hit.

Pet Shop Boys “Miracles” (Parlophone; November; #10)

A new Pet Shop Boys release is always a treat — this one is no exception, backed with new b-sides and remixes from the bonkers Lemon Jelly and someone called Eric Prydz.

Röyksopp “Sparks” (Wall of Sound; June; #41)

Another single from the essential album Melody A.M, this time with a daft remix by Roni Size but also an excellent new track and, on the second CD, the video to their best track yet, Remind Me.

Saint Etienne “Soft Like Me” (Mantra; January; #40)

A slight departure from their normal sound, but nonetheless one of the best tracks from their 2002 album Finisterre backed with remixes and dozens of exclusive b-sides.

Yello “Planet Dada / The Race 2003” (Motor; October; no UK release)

Sometimes bands slip in and out of fashion by moving ahead of the times. Yello, on the whole, have slipped out of the public eye by doing much the same thing (on the whole) for the last decade. Finally, the rest of the world has caught up with them, so their fantastic brand of electro is finally contemporary once again. There are even Tomcraft mixes of their biggest hit to boot.