Electronic - Get The Message: The Best Of Electronic
Bill Cummings 25/09/2006
Well, what have we here? ANOTHER re-release/greatest hits/best of release from the people at EMI, this time it's Electonic's Best of that's out in time for the Christmas rush. Electronic formed in 1987, in theory they were the '80s' best fantasy indie group, featuring the vocal talents of Bernard Sumner (of New Order fame), Johnny Marr, yes he of the Smiths, on guitars, and latterly they collaborated with the likes of the Pet Shop Boys' Neil Tennant and Karl Barlos, ex of Kraftwerk. This is how Barny Sumner saw Electronic: “for me it was a chance to work with other people whose work I had admired and people that I liked it was as simple as that.” So it wasn't about trying to experiment then Barn? It wasn't about trying to do something musically different to the New Order? It was just a chance to work with people he liked musically? Doesn't that smack a little of Self indulgence Barn? Johnny Marr has a different idea of what the Electronic project was all about: “our initial idea was to do some low key 12” releases for clubs and fans and maybe work with other people we liked and to get away from the rigid structure and politics of the four piece group.” Which sounds fair enough but what of the output I hear you cry?
Well there are some very good things here, “Getting Away With It” is perhaps one of the best indie/synth pop songs of the decade, all sweeping synths, luxurious melodies and brilliant harmonies supplied by Tennant and Sumner. While “Imitation of Life” has that classic New Order feel, all melancholic lyrics, a catchy rhythm and a crafty synth line. “Disappointed” is good too, Neil Tennant takes on vocal duties and does a very good job of breathing real life heartbreak into the deft synth lines, and clicking PSB beats. Latterly Electronic became more of a rock outfit, featuring the guitar work of Johnny Marr higher in the mix, the main example is the single “Vivid” with its blasting harmonicas, big ballsy blues guitars, and Sumner's vocals that are initially deadpan (“have you a reason to behave like this/ Do you need a psycho analyst”) only to uncoil and step up a notch, into a desperate plea for forgiveness in the chorus (“Don't ever doubt me/What's come over you?/Won't you forgive me?/What will you do”) it sounds a little like Screamadelica-era Primal Scream, which is a good thing. While “For You” has a summery feel, the classic Rickenbacker guitarwork of Marr comes shining through a delightfully pop melody supplied by Mr Sumner.
Elsewhere the picture is more patchy, “Feel Every Beat” is frankly a silly hotch potch of ideas, sounding a bit like the Happy Mondays meets Salt N Pepa, far be it from me to lecture a musical leg-end but Barny, you can't rap mate, sorry, and the less said about the peacenik white soul chorus the better. There's also a worrying amount of filler given that this is a “Best Of”. There's a slew of tracks that could be tagged “a pale imitation of New Order” like backing music they really does just pass me by: from the tepid melodies of “All That I need” to the a bit boring really “Second Nature” or the muggy eastern influenced dub of “Prodigal Son” that sounds a bit too much like downtempo Ian Brown for comfort. The latter more guitary work is mostly typified by the rather slight pop rock of “Like No Other” with its weedy guitars, lightweight production, and chorus that parodies Electronic's entire output. The problem with The "Best Of Electronic" is that it paints the group out to be a collaboration between talented artists that intermittently sparked, but all too often sounded like a pale imitation of the groups that had spawned its members. Thus it ends up being ultimately disappointing.