The Human League – Tell Me When

Billy, we are told, was an inspiration, positive and kind. And while history doesn’t necessarily explain who Billy was, The Human League‘s late 1994 comeback Tell Me When is still pretty fantastic.

A little over four years after the broadly misguided and largely digitally-driven Romantic?, Tell Me When was the first single from The League’s brilliant 1995 comeback Octopus. This was the album where they regained control for the first time in over a decade – Crash (1986) had famously descended into fine, but often dull, American soul, and its 1990 follow-up had been the sound of a group who had fundamentally lost their way. It wasn’t until Octopus that they found it again.

The lead track is fantastic, and got plenty of airplay. It was not, perhaps, as big a hit as it should have been, but it was undisputedly the Sheffield group’s best hit since at least Human, if not earlier. The lyrics are typically daft, and the vocal delivery typically imperfect, but the melody is catchy, and the soft analogue sounds are refreshing and uplifting.

This was, of course, the mid-1990s, and so a slew of remixes were inevitable. First up on this single was Utah Saints, with their Mix 1. It’s a catchy dance-pop crossover remix of a kind that just wouldn’t turn up now, with heavy beats and rippling synth arpeggios. It’s dated, and here’s a particularly fun bit half way through, where Utah Saints do their normal chord change-heavy bit, which is almost hilarious, but the mix as a whole is still great for what it is.

We then get not one but two b-sides, the first of which is the 1993 collaboration with YMO, Kimi Ni Mune Kyun. With two great groups collaborating, I’d have had high hopes, but this is honestly pretty dreadful. It must be at least 20 bpm too fast, and just seems to be a bit of a mess of beats. It’s a shame, but it really isn’t great.

But then we get the delightful instrumental The Bus to Crookes, a delightfully Sheffield-oriented take on the now-traditional transport mode-based electronic music track. This was not, let’s face it, ever going to break any particular boundaries, but it’s a nice instrumental piece, nonetheless.

Disc two opens with Utah Saints‘ other contribution to this release, Mix 2. This one seems more fully developed, somehow – the sounds are all the same, but the attempt at a full vocal mix has gone, replaced instead by repeated vocal snippets and broken down sections. Both mixes are great, but this is the one that really hits its mark.

Red Jerry is next, one of the people who would record one of the less offensive remixes of Don’t You Want Me a year or so later. His take on Tell Me When isn’t great – it’s a little better than the manic happy hardcore that was floating around during this period, but not a lot. The mid-1990s seem to have been a period where it was acceptable for remixers to take other people’s songs and just put the same riff on every one of them, and Red Jerry does seem to have been a part of that crowd – it worked for other songs, but not so much for this one.

Next is the Strictly Blind Dub, a dull house mix from Development Corporation. It’s a bit faster than some house tracks, so doesn’t quite do the relentless plodding thing that a lot of unimaginative house seems to, but it isn’t particularly elevating either, and lasts at least two or three minutes longer than it should (it isn’t even six minutes long in total). The fact that one of the remix duo was in Urban Cookie Collective should probably have been a sign. The same duo were responsible for the Overworld Mix that follows, and that’s a little better, with a bass line that nods to Blue Monday and a lot of acid squelching, but unfortunately it doesn’t go anywhere more interesting in the end.

Inexplicably, the second disc also closes with Utah SaintsMix 1, so there’s little more to say here. It started off so well, but as was often the case in the mid-1990s, this single gave us a great lead track, a couple of interesting b-sides, and then a bunch of largely lacklustre remixes. But as a comeback release, this was pretty promising, and served well to herald Octopus.

The first CD of Tell Me When is still available here.

Utah Saints – Two

The seven-year gap between Utah Saints (reviewed previously here) and Two (2000) must have seemed interminable to Utah Saints fans at the time, although it pales into insignificance when compared to the fifteen-year gap which has come since. But in those seven years of one-off singles, Leeds-based Utah Saints managed to find a mature sound which failed to make much of an impact on the charts, but was excellent nonetheless.

Their second album (they clearly struggle with names), Two opens with a gentle piece called Sun before launching into the lively Power to the Beats, the third single from the album. It’s a good place to start, sounding not entirely unlike the Utah Saints hits of the early 1990s, although without the samples that made them so famous. It wasn’t a hit, although that was partly because the CD wasn’t eligible for the UK charts.

First single Love Song comes next, with its enormous pounding beats. It’s a great track, but the record buying public of 2000 clearly wasn’t too bothered, as it barely scraped into the top forty. Which is a shame – it may not have the catchy charm of What Can You Do for Me or Believe in Me, but it’s far from bad.

Final single Lost Vagueness is one of the best tracks on here, but was entirely overlooked on its release the following year. Chrissie Hynde‘s weirdly synthesised vocals mix wonderfully with the almost symphonic backing. It’s great, but in the context of this album it forms a part of something even stronger.

This was, perhaps, the problem with Two – commercial success tends to come from singles, and whereas Utah Saints had plenty, Two is a more coherent, and much more complete release. Few tracks stand out, because the general level of quality is so high across the board.

As a fun deviation, Michael Stipe from R.E.M. turns up on a number of tracks, including Punk Club, which samples him largely listing cities in the US, which makes for an odd track, but sounds great nonetheless.

More of that later, but for now the album’s one hit single Funky Music Sho Nuff Turns Me On, which sees Chuck D singing over an enormous driving industrial dance beat. Although actually, apart from the vocal, there isn’t a lot to this track, so you could be forgiven for not being too keen. Again, in the album context, it fits very nicely indeed.

The pleasant didgeridoo-fashioned instrumental Massive follows next, and then another Stipe conversation in the form of the brilliant Rhinoceros. This must be as filmic as music can really be, with its silent movie-style piano backing, and the farcical story (Fellini’s And the Ship Sails On) told in the vocals. Truly brilliant.

This mixes into the lovely, deep and gentle Morning Sun, before they flirt again with their rave roots on Sick, which surely must have been considered as a single at one point. But with the later tracks on the album it’s easy to just slip into the music, and enjoy the way it all fits together – B777 drifts into Techknowledgy and the lovely Three Simple Words, and suddenly closing track Wiggedy Wack is upon you.

Two is a great second album – definitely better than its predecessor – but the last fifteen years have not been kind to it. Not because it’s dated in the slightest, but just that everybody has long since forgotten about it. But it’s long overdue another listen, and as soon as you pick it up again, you’ll realise it’s pretty amazing.

You can still find Two at your local high street record shop.

Music for the Masses 38 – 30 April 2005

The Live Bit, launched only the preceding week as a new feature, quickly turned out to be way too much trouble and was downsized to just one track, but the Electromix would continue for the rest of the show’s run, this week starring Leeds’s own Utah Saints as the centrepiece.

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Show 38: Sat 30 Apr 2005, from 6:00pm-8:00pm

Broadcast on LSR FM, online only. Artist of the week: Apollo 440.

  • Moloko – The Time is Now
  • System F – Insolation
  • Faithless feat. Boy George – Why Go?
  • Röyksopp – Remind Me (Someone Else’s Remix)
  • Apollo 440 – Astral America
  • Mylo – In My Arms (Sharam Jey Remix)
  • The Clarke & Ware Experiment – Communication (from Music for Multiple Dimensions)
  • New Order feat. Ana Matronic – Jetstream (Richard X Remix)
  • LCD Soundsystem – Disco Infiltrator
  • Heaven 17 – Being Boiled (Live) [The Live Bit]
  • Amorphous Androgynous – The Mello Hippo Disco Show
  • Apollo 440 – Pain in Any Language
  • Moby – I Like It
  • M83 – Teen Angst (Montag Mix)
  • Lemon Jelly – Make Things Right
  • The Flirts – Passion
  • Apollo 440 – Heart Go Boom
  • Ladytron – Blue Jeans [Electromix]
  • Utah Saints – Love Song [Electromix]
  • Piney Gir – Girl [Electromix]
  • Jam & Spoon feat. Rea – Be Angeled

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

Music for the Masses 27 – 22 November 2004

Show 27 was, judging from the pictures and playlist, a blistering affair, involving lots of waving hands around in the air like I just didn’t care, and finally seeing Kraftwerk as the artist of the week.

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Show 27: Mon 22 Nov 2004, from 6:05pm-8:00pm

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

  • Gorillaz – Clint Eastwood
  • Tears for Fears – Shout
  • Röyksopp – Poor Leno
  • Utah Saints – Lost Vagueness
  • Télépopmusik – Genetic World
  • Sugababes – Too Lost in You
  • Kraftwerk – Radioactivity
  • Alpinestars – Green Raven Blonde
  • Vic Twenty – Kiss You
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Electricity
  • Heaven 17 – Dive
  • Wolfsheim – Kein Zurück
  • Dubstar – It’s Over
  • Kraftwerk – Computer Love (The Mix Version)
  • Ladytron – Blue Jeans
  • Komputer – Looking Down on London
  • Paul van Dyk feat. Vega 4 – Time of Our Lives
  • Yello – Get On
  • Wes – Alane
  • Kings of Convenience – Know-How
  • Tiga & Zyntherius – Sunglasses at Night
  • Audioweb – Into My World
  • Kraftwerk – Tour de France

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 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…

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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)…

Music for the Masses 17 – 10 May 2000

If you’ve ever wondered how real radio stations do competitions, the answer is that they make up pretend entries. When I was doing my Bay Radio show, I obviously hadn’t learnt this yet…

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Show 17: Wed 10 May 2000, from 10.55am-1.00pm

Tracks taken from the playlist (Total 14 tracks). A indicates A-list (8 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 5 tracks).

  • 1. Bluetones “Autophilia” A
  • [IRN 11.00 News]
  • 2. Moby “Run On” L
  • 3. Richard Ashcroft “Song for the Lovers” C
  • 4. Inter “Radio Finland” B
  • [Advert Break]
  • 5. Asian Dub Foundation “New Way New Life” B
  • 6. Duran Duran “Someone Else Not Me” L
  • 7. William Orbit “Ravel’s Pavane pour une Enfante Défunte” R
  • 8. Billie Piper “Day & Night” A
  • 9. Death in Vegas “Dirge” L
  • 10. Wannadies “Big Fan” A
  • [Advert Break]
  • 11. Watergate “Heart of Asia” A
  • 12. Deep Forest “Savana Dance” (Sierra Nevada Remix) R
  • 13. Enigma “Push the Limits” R
  • [IRN 12.00 News]
  • 14. DJ Eric “Desire” L
  • 15. Utah Saints “Funky Music” S
  • 16. Bentley Rhythm Ace “Theme from Gutbuster” A
  • 17. Chicane feat. Bryan Adams “Don’t Give Up” L
  • [Advert Break]
  • 18. Looper “Mundo 77” C
  • 19. Basement Jaxx “Rendez-Vu” R
  • 20. Dubstar “I (Friday Night)” A
  • 21. Sahara Hotnights “Drive Dead Slow” B
  • 22. Dandy Warhols “Get Off” A
  • 23. Gomez “Machismo” A
  • [Advert Break]
  • 24. Space Brothers “Forgiven” L
  • 25. Jean Michel Jarre “Tout est Bleu” R
  • 26. Robert Miles “Maresias” R

Producer: None.

Notes: Bit rusty… Also, my first compotion. No-one entered. Darn. Fiddle-de-dee.

Chart for stowaways – 3 January 2015

Here’s the first chart of the new year, with all the weird hangers-on that that entails:

  1. Erasure – Gaudete
  2. Apollo 440 – Liquid Cool
  3. The Beloved – Rock to the Rhythm of Love
  4. Erasure – Make it Wonderful
  5. Röyksopp – Sordid Affair
  6. The London Authority (The Beloved) – Baby Sheik
  7. Röyksopp & Robyn – Monument
  8. Utah Saints – I Want You
  9. Röyksopp & Robyn – Do It Again
  10. U2 – Sleep Like a Baby Tonight