Preview – Yazoo

Yazoo’s story essentially goes something like this:

  • 1982: Upstairs at Eric’s
  • 1983: You and Me Both
  • 1986-1996: CD reissues of singles and albums, and a nice remix of Situation
  • 1999: ropey “best of” compilation, and ropey remixes of Only YouDon’t Go, and Situation
  • 2008: lovely In Your Room CD box set and reunion tour, random remix singles Reconnected EP and Nobody’s Diary
  • 2010: live album
  • 2017: random remix of Only You
  • 2018: interesting looking vinyl box set Four Pieces, also inexplicably available on three CDs

The last thirty-five years have been a bit odd, so hopefully this mess all gets mopped up properly at some point… but for now, this:

Rex the Dog – The Rex the Dog Show

Rex the Dog is one of those names that used to keep turning up a decade or so ago, as the remixer to whatever your latest favourite hit was. Pretty much out of nowhere, he self-released his debut (and to date, only) album The Rex the Dog Show ten years ago.

After a brief Intro track (something about dogs), we launch in with Maximize 2008, an updated version of a 2006 12″ single that Rex the Dog had released through a real record company. It’s a pulsating electro instrumental piece with an uplifting feel and a whole load of great acid noises. It’s a great way to launch the album.

Next is Gecko, featuring the triumphant return of the 1980s orchestral hit. The vocal seems pretty 1980s-inspired somehow too, and there are huge snares, but in general it still manages to sound pretty contemporary. But Bubbilicious is the track that gives us the first real taste of genius on here – the first few tracks were good, but they were clearly building up to this. It’s built, rather unpredictably, around a couple of lines of Yazoo‘s Midnight, and it does have a bit of a bootleg feel, but it also works very well.

Debut single Prototype follows, a nice, uplifting instrumental electro piece with throbbing bass and pad swells. Then Heartsong is a pleasant little instrumental interlude that carries us through to Heartbeats, actually a song by The Knife, remixed for their 2004 single release. The Knife are one of those acts that I’ve always felt I should like more than I actually do, so I’m not sure I like this mix as much as I want to either, but it’s certainly not bad.

Circulate was another 12″, released in 2007, and is an appropriate name for this rotating dance track. Sometimes I feel as though things like this might work better on the 12″ single, though – on an album, I do expect something a little less… dull?

Next are The Sounds, with Tony the Beat, which is pretty good – it’s nice to have these excursions into melodic tracks (through the remixes) between the more repetitive tracks such as I Can See You, Can You See Me? This is a good album, but there aren’t really a lot of surprises here, for the most part.

As you reach the end, though, your opinion on that may change – Itchy Scratchy is an intriguing early example of glitchy electro, and is strangely enjoyable. Then Italian Skyline, with its pained, processed pads, is an early taster for Italian Blond, which is hiding in amongst the bonus tracks. Suddenly now, towards the end, we appear to be getting all the great tracks that we should have had all the way through.

Frequency, too, previously the second single from 2004, is a great acid-infused dance piece, and so while, in spite of a great processed vocal, the closing track I Look Into Mid Air resonates less, you do leave this album feeling pretty positive on the whole. We can probably all agree that it isn’t the best album ever recorded, but for the most part, it is pretty good.

You can still find The Rex the Dog Show on release – go for the version with four bonus tracks if you find a copy.

Greatest Hits – Vol. 11

Time for another selection of reviews that you might have missed in the last year or two.

You can also see Vol. 10 here.

Stowaway Heroes – Vince Clarke

One of the most prolific names in music is Vince Clarke. After a couple of excellent false starts including Yazoo and The Assembly, he’s spent most of his career as the knob-twiddling genius responsible for Erasure‘s backing tracks.

Things started out, of course, with Depeche Mode, and we can’t really overlook his sunglasses and designer stubble in their breakthrough hit Just Can’t Get Enough:

Of course, Erasure is where he’s spent most of the last thirty years, and it would be difficult not to give him credit where it’s due for his exquisite performance in the video to Abba‘s Take a Chance on Me:

In recent years, he has branched out, working again with his old bandmate Martin L. Gore as well as half of Orbital, all of Jean-Michel Jarre, and others. From 2Square, his project with Paul Hartnoll, here’s Better Have a Drink to Think:

Genius is an over-used word without a doubt, but it’s absolutely fair to say that Clarke should be one of our stowaway heroes.

Chart for stowaways – 17 February 2018

Here’s the latest singles chart:

  1. Simon Mills – Poke EP
  2. Sparks – I Wish You Were Fun
  3. The Beloved – Don’t You Worry
  4. Goldfrapp – Happiness
  5. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – What Have We Done
  6. Sparks – Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me)
  7. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – As We Open, So We Close
  8. David Bowie – Beauty and the Beast
  9. Yazoo – Only You
  10. Saint Etienne – Dive

Chart for stowaways – 10 February 2018

The top ten singles this week:

  1. Simon Mills – Poke EP
  2. Sparks – I Wish You Were Fun
  3. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – What Have We Done
  4. Sparks – Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me)
  5. The Beloved – Don’t You Worry
  6. Goldfrapp – Happiness
  7. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – As We Open, So We Close
  8. Yazoo – Only You
  9. Saint Etienne – Dive
  10. Kylie Minogue – Dancing

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