Chart for stowaways – 27 January 2018

Here are the week’s top singles:

  1. Sparks – Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me)
  2. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – What Have We Done
  3. Simon Mills – Poke EP
  4. Sparks – I Wish You Were Fun
  5. Yazoo – Only You
  6. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – As We Open, So We Close
  7. Saint Etienne – Dive
  8. Kylie Minogue – Dancing
  9. Fever Ray – To the Moon and Back
  10. David Bowie – Beauty and the Beast
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Stowaway Awards 2018

After all the excitement of previous years, I’ve decided to tone down the Stowaway Awards a little this year, with just six categories. Here they are, with the full lists of nominees!

Best Track

Nominees:

  • Depeche Mode – Where’s the Revolution
  • Erasure – Be Careful What You Wish for!
  • Gary Numan – My Name is Ruin
  • Goldfrapp – Become the One
  • Kraftwerk – Radioaktivität
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – As We Open, So We Close
  • Pet Shop Boys – Reunion
  • Saint Etienne – Whyteleaf
  • Sparks – Scandinavian Design
  • Yazoo – Only You

We announced the winner already – it’s Depeche Mode.

Best Album

Nominees:

  • Depeche Mode – Spirit
  • Erasure – World Be Gone
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – The Punishment of Luxury
  • Saint Etienne – Home Counties
  • Sparks – Hippopotamus

The winner is Depeche Mode.

Best Reissue / Compilation

Nominees:

  • Liza Minnelli – Results
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – The Punishment of Luxury: B Sides & Bonus Material
  • Pet Shop Boys – Nightlife
  • Pet Shop Boys – Release
  • Pet Shop Boys – Yes

The winner is Pet Shop Boys, for Release.

Best Artist

Nominees:

  • Depeche Mode
  • Erasure
  • Goldfrapp
  • Saint Etienne
  • Sparks

This year’s winner is Sparks.

Best Live Act

Nominees:

  • Jean-Michel Jarre
  • The Jesus and Mary Chain
  • múm

The winner is Jean-Michel Jarre.

Outstanding Contribution

Nominees:

  • David Bowie
  • Vince Clarke
  • The Future Sound of London
  • Leftfield
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

The winner: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.

Chart for stowaways – 20 January 2018

Here are the week’s top ten singles:

  1. Sparks – Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me)
  2. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – What Have We Done
  3. Yazoo – Only You
  4. Saint Etienne – Dive
  5. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – As We Open, So We Close
  6. Sparks – I Wish You Were Fun
  7. Fever Ray – To the Moon and Back
  8. David Bowie – Beauty and the Beast
  9. Pet Shop Boys – Reunion
  10. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – The Punishment of Luxury

Erasure – Other People’s Songs

I think it’s fair to say that Erasure were having a bit of an identity crisis fifteen years ago. Their “guitar” album Loveboat had been an abject failure, and pop generally seemed to be in a bit of a decline. Andy Bell had always threatened to do a cover versions album, which might have made a degree of sense and certainly couldn’t have been any worse than the solo efforts he did release. When it did appear, Vince Clarke had decided to take part as well, and the whole thing ended up smelling more than a little of lousy cash-in.

Other People’s Songs opens with Peter Gabriel‘s Solsbury Hill, a respectable opening track and lead single which adds little to the original other than some cheesy instrumentation and flamboyant vocals. It’s good, but it’s not great.

The strength here is, of course, in the songs themselves. Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime is a great song – one of the best on here, actually – and of course Erasure were, at this stage, still more than competent enough to make a great track out of a catchy song. Especially when the instrumentation didn’t get too cheesy, as it had a little on the first track. The only slight disappointment is that this doesn’t remotely echo Baby D‘s brilliantly manic version of this song from just a few years earlier, although some of the vocal effects do go some way towards making up for that.

There are always the songs that don’t work quite as well – Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) remains a great and catchy song, but it’s hardly an Erasure song, and frankly it made a pretty lousy second single.

And then there are the ones that fail completely – what on earth is Everyday supposed to be? If you want to be really kind to it, maybe it’s a fun reminder of the early days of Yazoo and Erasure, with a fun monophonic synth line and soulful vocals. If you don’t, it’s just plain drivel.

Fortunately, most of the tracks here are mercifully short, and as the equally dreadful When Will I See You Again and the marginally better Walking in the Rain pass you by, you might find yourself starting to lose the will to live.

What you can say here is that there’s always a good song somewhere nearby, and this time it’s the adorable True Love Ways. As with earlier songs, part of the reason it works so well is that the synths are toned down a little here, and this turns out to actually be up to the standard that you might expect from Erasure.

But for every up, there’s always a big down, and Ebb Tide returns us to their earlier form. And again, some of the songs have just been done better by others – Can’t Help Falling in Love is passable, but it’s hardly UB40, and You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ was done much better by The Human League.

Of course, Erasure had done plenty of cover versions before, most notably of Abba, and some of them had been very good indeed, and so there was inevitably going to be a moment of absolute greatness on here, but Goodnight is still something of a surprise – it’s so good, in fact, that it overshadows pretty much everything else that Erasure released between 2000 and 2011.

Then they go and spoil it all with Video Killed the Radio Star, which is so objectively bad that I won’t say any more than that.

Ultimately, it has to be said – Other People’s Songs is largely awful. It’s actually bad enough that it’s difficult to fathom how nobody noticed while it was being recorded. Sure, there’s no shortage of great, catchy songs, but most of them would have been better left in their original form, without the awful 8-bit synth sounds that Vince Clarke seemed to be so keen on during this period. On the whole, this one is best avoided.

If that inspired you to track this album down, you can find it here and at all major retailers.

Chart for stowaways – 6 January 2018

Here are the week’s top ten singles:

  1. Sparks – Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me)
  2. Saint Etienne – Dive
  3. Yazoo – Only You
  4. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – What Have We Done
  5. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – As We Open, So We Close
  6. Fever Ray – To the Moon and Back
  7. Sparks – I Wish You Were Fun
  8. Pet Shop Boys – Christmas
  9. David Bowie – Beauty and the Beast
  10. Erasure – Make It Wonderful

Preview – Yazoo

I know this made it onto our 2017 countdown as a late entry, but I wanted to share this rather lovely video for an entirely lovely new version of Yazoo‘s Only You, which came out as a single again just before Christmas:

Christmas chart for stowaways 2017

Here’s the 2017 Christmas chart for stowaways!

  1. Saint Etienne – Dive
  2. Yazoo – Only You
  3. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – As We Open, So We Close
  4. Fever Ray – To the Moon and Back
  5. Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas
  6. Pet Shop Boys – Reunion
  7. Pet Shop Boys – Leaving
  8. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – What Have We Done
  9. Pet Shop Boys – Christmas
  10. Liza Minnelli – Losing My Mind