I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for the lo-fi stylings of White Town, maybe partly because of Your Woman, which celebrates its 21st anniversary of hitting the number 1 spot pretty much this week. He has a new album, Deemab, out now, and this is Craig David Girl:
Here’s a great video from Derby’s White Town, famous as a one-hit wonder and proud of his lofi underground roots. Here’s Your Woman.
I’ve often wondered what most people made of White Town‘s 1997 album Women in Technology. Released in haste after the sudden success of Your Woman, it almost made the charts but sold respectably. This week, it celebrates the twentieth anniversary of its brief fling with fame, which seems a good time to give it another listen.
It opens with second single Undressed, a good opener, as it showcases White Town‘s lo-fi charms with a particularly good song. If you came to this expecting twelve clones of Your Woman, you probably would have been disappointed, although contemporary reviews for the album were actually fairly complimentary, and this single did make the lower ends of the chart, meaning White Town don’t (doesn’t?) quite go down in history as a one-hit wonder.
Next is the more uptempo Thursday at The Blue Note, and while it does come a little closer to cloning Your Woman, by now you probably should have got that idea out of your mind. It’s a great indie party track, the highlight of which surely has to be the Derby-accented lady who speaks the title towards the end.
There’s an impressive variety of styles at play here, with the acoustic sound of A Week Next June coming next, and then the moment that you could probably be forgiven for waiting for, the number one hit single Your Woman.
It still blows my mind slightly whenever this turns up on the radio – in context, on the album, it makes some degree of sense as a song – you can accept that Women in Technology is an album for misfits, and that a man telling someone he could never be their woman is OK. Randomly heard on the radio in amongst early 1990s rock (as it often is), you might be left a little confused. The computer pips in the middle section are, of course, the finest moment of the song.
An updated version of debut eponymous single White Town follows, before some warped electronics introduce The Shape of Love. One of the more interesting things done on the album sleeve was to scatter the songs around a discreet image of a lady’s body. The Shape of Love is somewhere just above the left knee. The song is actually largely acoustic and fairly simple, with the grimy electronics just creating background atmosphere.
Wanted comes next, a grimy production which uses a female vocal sample as part of the rhythm track, and featuring a great lead vocal from Ann Pearson. This was at one point planned as the second single, but for some reason never appeared, which is a shame, because Vince Clarke‘s remix on the promo CD is great (actually I think it’s probably fair to say that it’s better than the original, although it definitely wouldn’t have worked as an album track). There’s also a very rare promo 12″ which includes remixes by various other synth legends, and is probably worth buying if you’re ever lucky enough to find a copy.
For every more forgettable moment on here (The Function of the Orgasm is fine, but nobody was going to buy this album purely for this), there’s another great track – Going Nowhere Somehow could have easily been another hit single if White Town had been destined for stardom. Theme for an Early Evening American Sitcom is a slightly daft instrumental, but The Death of My Desire is another indie/rock crossover for misfits.
That’s very much the theme of this album – it was clearly never intended to be the biggest seller ever, but there’s plenty to enjoy if you like honest, home produced but professional sounding music. And ultimately what more can anyone ask for? Women in Technology closes much the same way it opened, with a sweet song with enormous drumming, Once I Flew, then a matter of months later White Town and the record company parted company, and everyone got on with their lives again. But for a brief, fleeting moment, this was an album that offered a lot to it audience, and I suspect those who haven’t heard it might still find something to enjoy.
You can find Women in Technology at all major retailers.
Unfortunately the webcam wasn’t working this week, leaving us with very little documentary evidence of the show. Artist of the week was my long-time favourite act The Beloved, and other highlights included oddities from White Town and The Postal Service.
Show 33: Wed 23 Feb 2005, from 6:05pm-8:00pm
Broadcast on LSR FM, online only. Artist of the week: The Beloved.
- Mylo – Valley of the Dolls
- Robert Miles – Children
- Olive – Miracle (Radio Mix)
- Röyksopp – Poor Leno
- New Order – True Faith
- Enigma – The Eyes of Truth
- The Beloved – Time After Time
- Tony di Bart – The Real Thing (Joy Brothers Remake)
- Sarah Cracknell – Anymore
- The Shamen – Xochipili’s Return
- Deep Forest – Yuki Song
- The Beloved – Sweet Harmony
- White Town – Duplicate
- Fluke – Atom Bomb
- Orbital – The Saint
- The Postal Service – We Will Become Silhouettes
- Dario G – Sunchyme
- Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Electricity
- The Beloved – A Dream within a Dream
- Bent – Sunday 29th
By late November 2004, Music for the Masses had settled into a comfortable rhythm – so much so, in fact, that I was largely forgetting to do silly things every time the webcam went off – the only highlight this week involved me waving my arms around a bit.
Show 28: Mon 29 Nov 2004, from 6:05pm-8:00pm
Broadcast on LSR FM, online only. Artist of the week: The Future Sound of London.
- Bent – An Ordinary Day
- Dusted – Always Remember to Respect & Honour Your Mother (Part 1)
- White Town – Panoptican
- Massive Attack – Teardrop
- Voodoo Child – Light is in Your Eyes
- Gotan Project – Queremos Paz
- The Future Sound of London – Papua New Guinea
- Orbital – The Box
- Asana – Signals
- Grace – If I Could Fly
- Lemon Jelly – Stay with You
- The Future Sound of London – Cascade
- Death in Vegas – Dirge
- Client feat. Carl Barât – Pornography
- Dario G – Sunchyme
- Jam & Spoon feat. Rea – Be Angeled
- Erasure – Breathe
- Electronic – Freefall
- Goldbug – Whole Lotta Love
- Leftfield – Dusted
- The Future Sound of London – My Kingdom
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.
I’ve written before about White Town‘s post-Your Woman work, but never about Peek & Poke (2000), his first release after flirting briefly with a major record label in 1997 and becoming, pretty much literally, a one-hit wonder. It’s been a long time since I last listened to it, but hearing it again makes me think that it might actually be among his best works.
It starts with the 1998 single Another Lover, a charming piece of lo-fi pop which is probably deceptively complicated, but it seems to essentially consist of a bass part, some piano chords, drums and percussion, and a couple of vocal tracks. It’s sweet, rather silly, and a lot of fun.
The pace and the mood both change somewhat with Why I Hate Drugs, an appopriately downbeat and sombre piece. As is occasionally the case with White Town, I’m not actually sure how much I like it, but he does at least always have something interesting to say. This isn’t true for Duplicate, which is assuredly brilliant. The vocal effects work wonderfully over another simplistic backing track. It’s hardly contemporary – even for fifteen years ago – but it does have a certain timeless charm.
A more daft moment follows with Every Second Counts, hiding somewhere in the gap between TV game show theme (which White Town‘s Jyoti Mishra had been recording for years in his spare time), sport coverage music, and pop song, it turns out to be a lot of fun. At the end, it mixes into the rather bitter Anyway, a catchy guitar-driven song.
The largely acoustic In My Head is another fun song which is basically about jealousy, again with a catchy chorus. Peek & Poke is essentially pop music at its purest – the sound isn’t the most polished ever, but the sentiments are strong and the melodies are catchy.
Unfortunately a couple of tracks spoil it a bit – I can almost see the point in Bunny Boiler, but it shouldn’t really be here. At best, it spoils the mood after everything that came before it – at worst, it’s dreadful. Fortunately it doesn’t last long before the best track on the album turns up, the lovely She Left for Paris, a sad song full of regrets for an extended date in France which ends up with the girl falling for the city but not the protagonist. Life, apparently, has its ups and downs.
The short instrumental Theme for Alan Mathison Turing, in honour of the now pardoned and celebrated father of Computer Science follows, a pleasant instrumental interlude before a rhythmic short song called I’m Alone, and then we’re on to a particularly weird song called The Story of My Life. It’s essentially the tale of somebody looking back at their life, but it’s the odd instrumentation which makes it both charming and a little jarring too. The second half of the song is a prog rock-style continuation, as the song gradually gets more and more electronic.
As Bunny Boiler demonstrated, there are some slightly questionable decisions on here (Jyoti Mishra is, it seems, only human), and the closing track Excerpts from an Essay is an example of this. Let’s be clear: it’s by no means bad. It does last thirteen minutes, but musically it’s generally interesting enough. It’s just a little difficult to know how and when you would ever listen to it, as a robotic voice drones through what is not, unless you are a student of socialism or hip hop, the most interesting essay ever written. We’re not here to mark it, and honestly it’s well written from an academic standpoint, but a pop album is not really where it belongs.
Still, White Town is a one-man band, and he can, of course, do whatever he likes. It’s probably fair to say he might benefit from an editor now and then, but nonetheless, Peek & Poke is still an extremely enjoyable album. Which should be reason enough to track it down.