see also... New Order
I wonder how much dribble had to be cleaned from the office floors of mags like the NME, when they heard that New Order's Bernard Sumner and the Smiths' Johnny Marr were to make an album together. Eventually, "Electronic" didn't exactly sound like a 50/50 blend of their former bands, but it still moistened the critics. It sits not too far from New Order's "Technique", not only in its achingly cool blend of dance-pop and guitars, but its relentlessly high quality. Happens that Marr was more in the mood to get down and dance, as his subtle guitar lines decorate these mostly keyboard-based songs rather than fuelling them.
The single that launched the collaboration was the breezy, lightweight "Getting Away With It", featured Neil Tennant from the Pet Shop Boys duetting on vocals with Sumner. It suggested they were going to be a supergroup trio, but the only other track Tennant contributes to is the melancholy "Patience of a Saint". That's close to the beard-stroking adult pop the Pet Shop Boys were producing around the same time on "Behaviour". The album's other big hit, "Get the Message" was played to death in 1991. The video of Sumner singing sat on a wall, idly clicking his fingers, recalls the smooth melodies of this summery pop track, anchored on Marr's chilled guitar strum.
"Idiot Country" is a great opener, kicking the album off as they mean to go on. Marr's pumping wah-wah guitar fuels a solid pop song that's about as chock-full of tunes as is possible. Tracks like "Tighten Up" and "Reality" keep the tunes-per minute count soaring. Touches like the cheesy keyboard riff on "Gangster" sometimes push it into the realms of trying too hard to be cool. But these are cancelled out by wonderful ideas like the elegant oboe solo that closes "Some Distant Memory". Just like on "Technique", they stick in extra tunes just for fun, even when it isn't strictly necessary.
Keyboard instrumental "Soviet" sounds like it took ten minutes to make, but it's effectively stark and imposing, like a watered-down offspring of the instrumentals from Bowie's "Low". I'll excuse Sumner's cheesy, nasal-voiced rapping on "Feel Every Beat", as this track closes the album almost as confidently as it began, a rousing feel-good anthem.
April 16, 2005