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.

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.

Client – Client

A decade ago this week saw the release of the first of two excellent albums (followed by two other albums) by the brilliant Client. The duo formed when Technique fell apart mid-tour, with the vocalist replaced by Sarah Blackwood formerly of Dubstar, and they found an excellent style for themselves, in military outfits and labelled Client A and Client B, and with brilliantly leading artwork. Signed by Andrew Fletcher to the Toast Hawaii label, an offshoot of Mute, they flirted with success for several years before deciding, as it turned out incorrectly, that they could do just as well without a record label.

The first Client album Client opens with the title track Client, which was also the first single Client. A popular trend among groups around this time was to ensure that you had a song that set out the band’s manifesto, and this is pretty much as close as you can get. It’s dirty, at times unpleasant to listen to, full of weird stylised lyrics, and totally brilliant.

Better from a melodic point of view is Rock and Roll Machine, the second proper single, which is also one of the strongest tracks on the album. Client B‘s vocal style on this album is slightly unusual and forceful, almost aggressive, rather than traditionally melodic, but when combined with the dark synth sounds it works extremely well.

First proper single Price of Love follows, and is totally brilliant, driven by an octave bass line, and sounding like some kind of forgotten eighties masterpiece remixed by a spotty genius to bring it into the modern age. Listening to it now I’m almost disappointed that this is ten years old already. Again, the lyrics are strangely styled (“What’s the price of love got to do with love?”) but work really well when delivered by Client B alongside the deep and dark electronics.

Next up is Happy, with its brilliant lyric “I’m happy / She’s happy / So why the flip are you not happy?” (I may have censored that slightly.) As with the opening track Client, it’s a bold statement, which works extremely well.

Something of a surprise, and another of the best tracks on the album, is Diary of an 18 Year Old Boy. Having been an 18 year old boy, I suppose I identify a bit with some of the lyrics, but it also contains a wonderful retro synth pad line which gives it a truly excellent sound. Civilian follows, a little largely instrumental piece which is rather less special, mainly consisting of noisy synth noises, but it is at least helping to hammer home the concept of the album.

The first track of the second half is Here and Now, which was also their third proper single, and is probably the best track on the album. Like Price of Love, it’s one of the closest things to a traditional pop song, which is probably why it’s so great, but somehow the pads, vocals and slightly discordant piano come together to create something truly fantastic. The single versions are admittedly better, with slightly more accentuated synth lines, but this is still quite brilliant.

The rest of the second half of the album is generally less special, starting with the one really low point on the album, the rather pointless Sugar Candy Kisses, which neither says anything particular nor adds anything special to the package. But at least it drives onward fairly pleasantly, and for an album to only have one track that weak is impressive to say the least.

Pills lifts things somewhat, although it’s not as strong as some of the tracks on the first half, and Leipzig is, despite a fantastic bass part, nothing to write home about (so I won’t). Then the last proper track is Love All Night, which struggles a little lyrically, but is otherwise back to the standard of the first bunch. Then, after a bit of silence, Side B actually closes with what I think of as Civilian (Part 2), a secret bonus reprise which we’ll keep between ourselves.

I can only think that what happened in their latter years was that they diluted their “product” (to use their terminology) by releasing less exciting material, because this album is pretty much perfect in every way. Even when it’s not so good, the music is at least making a valid point, and the same is true of their second album City. The artwork is brilliant, the whole concept is perfect. What they did wrong was to keep releasing stuff. I’d suggest we just pretend that they only ever made two albums, and leave it at that.

You can find Client on iTunes here, or at all the other normal places.