Artist of the Week – The Beloved

Many moons ago, there was a radio show called Music for the Masses, which I presented on and off between 1999 and 2005. I’ve talked about it here plenty of times. One of the features was the Artist of the Week, and contained various errors, incorrect opinions, and the following information:

Jon Marsh originally formed a band called The Journey Through in 1984 with fellow Cambridge students Guy Gausden, Tim Havard, and Steve Waddington. After some demos, they evolved into The Beloved, and started making music not a million miles away from the style of Joy Division, early New Order, or even, occasionally, The Smiths.

After a number of minor singles, they released their debut album Where it Is, but following little success and disagreements with the record company, they left, dropped two members, and reappeared in 1988 with their first commercial release Loving Feeling.

It was at the end of 1989 that they saw their first major hit, with the release of The Sun Rising. Further singles from the first successful album Happiness were also hits, including Hello and Your Love Takes Me Higher. A remixed album Blissed Out also saw some success.

The third album Conscience followed in 1993, including the smash hit Sweet Harmony, and saw them starting to explore deeper dance territory with more house-based tracks and remixes. The fourth album in 1996 was in many ways a transitional piece, with the tracks starting to show great signs of depth.

Since then, they’ve done naff all… (that is genuinely what it says here!)

Beginner’s guide to Electronic

One of the most interesting – and best named – supergroups, as New Order‘s Bernard Sumner and The Smiths‘ Johnny Marr teamed up variously with Pet Shop Boys, Karl Bartos and others to create some truly brilliant electronic music.

Key moments

Get the MessageGetting Away with It, and Disappointed are the three that most people will remember, but there are a lot of other special moments hidden away.

Where to start

Buying a “best of” from an act who have only released may seem like an odd step, but Get the Message (2006) actually makes a pretty good collection – plus it includes Disappointed, which doesn’t appear on any of the studio albums, and a couple of the better b-sides.

What to buy

Start with the brilliant debut Electronic (1991) – get the 2013 reissue with the bonus disc, if you can, as it contains instrumental highlights of the rest of their career. Then move on in chronological order to Raise the Pressure (1997).

Don’t bother with

Sadly, the third album Twisted Tenderness lacks the charm, inventiveness, and even the songwriting of its predecessors. Anything that’s worth hearing on here is on either Get the Message or the bonus disc of Electronic.

Hidden treasure

Many of the b-sides are surprisingly good, notably Free Will and Imitation of Life, and there are some particularly good remixes hidden away on the singles too.

For stowaways

Electronic – Electronic (Reissue)

Sometimes you have to wonder whether remastered reissues are entirely necessary – even for a relatively old album, if the original sounded good, do you really need to hear a cleaned up version?

Electronic, the debut album from Electronic, is not one of those cases. The original 1991 release sounds absolutely awful. It’s so bad, in fact, in its sub-FM radio fidelity, that it’s almost surprising this album is as well loved as it is. The 2013 remastered reissue was, therefore, very welcome indeed.

To me, Idiot Country has always seemed an odd choice of album opener. It sounds so completely unlike anything that Bernard Sumner or Johnny Marr had ever released previously that it must have come as a bit of a surprise to listeners. And with that in mind, it’s a rather clever album opener too.

Reality should sound a little more familiar, but this album was never without its surprises. There are less good moments, such as third track Tighten Up, but even they sound considerably better now than they ever did before – somehow a whole load of orchestral hits sound a lot better remastered than they did the first time around. And then there are exceptional moments such as The Patience of a Saint.

The Patience of a Saint is, of course, the moment where Pet Shop Boys appear without warning. The collaboration is pretty much perfect, and is definitely one of the best tracks on this album – if you had to guess what a cross between Chris Lowe, Bernard Sumner, Neil Tennant, and Johnny Marr might sound like, you probably wouldn’t be too far off.

The original 1991 release on Factory Records even omitted the debut single Getting Away with It, and so it was left to subsequent reissues to put it back at the halfway point where it definitely belongs. Without it, this is still a good album, but somehow it feels as though it’s missing its soul. And Getting Away with It is also one of the tracks to really benefit from the remaster – it sounds infinitely better than it ever would have sounded on its original release in 1989.

The orchestral hits return with Gangster, no longer sounding tinny and empty, but now full of dark FM synth sounds – it still sounds very dated, but it’s a much more mournful and meaningful piece thanks to the remaster. Similarly Soviet, which you could easily be forgiven for dismissing as a silly little filler track, is now transformed into one of the most atmospheric and moving pieces on the entire album.

Next up is the killer single Get the Message, which always sounded brilliant, so its inclusion here is less essential. It’s still one of the best singles of the early 1990s, and really deserved to spend several months at number one.

Later tracks Try All You Want and Some Distant Memory still start to feel a little more like filler, but it’s difficult to overstate just how much better this album sounds thanks to having been revisited. The closing track, the final single Feel Every Beat, is totally brilliant though. With little more than a minute to go at the end of the album, it collapses into a whirl of piano chords, and makes for a perfect album closer.

The other thing that Electronic is lacking is their finest moment, 1992’s Disappointed, which on this release kicks off the bonus disc. That’s an acceptable compromise, but on this reissue it’s among slightly strange company. The new bonus disc is now a collection of instrumental versions and exclusive edits of b-sides and later album tracks. It’s a welcome collection, even if some of the inclusions are a little incongruous, and if nothing else it’s a timely reminder that Electronic was more than just a brief side project for New Order and The Smiths.

Some remasters may be pointless means for record companies to shift more copies, but this is far from being one of those. It’s a great album, and for the first time it sounds truly exceptional. This is, without a doubt, the essential version of Electronic, and every home should have one.

You can find the new reissue of Electronic at all major retailers.