(Finally) Listening to…..Electronic

The 1990’s was really the decade where I hung up my rock’n’roll shoes and really stopped listening to anything new on the pop/rock front, except for odd exceptions like U2, The Blue Nile, Jeff Buckley, David Byrne plus a few more.  Dance music  & deejay ‘culture’ (for which I had/have little time) was in full flow and a lot of bands I’d liked in the late 80’s had disappeared or gone backwards.  I went over to an almost exclusive diet of jazz and world music, supplementing that by fleshing out my collection with the steady flow of 60’s and ’70’s albums that were coming through as CD re-releases.

I’ve never really been a great radio listener anyway, so I probably heard Electronic in passing and just assumed that what I was hearing was a new single by New Order.  I knew about Electronic; after all, they were being touted as the Manc supergroup; Bernard Sumner from the resting New Order and Johnny Marr, the musical heartbeat of The Smiths, along with various Pet Shop Boys and other fellow travellers.

Barney & Johnny want to know what took me so long…..

Given the time and the cash, I would probably have got round to Electronic, but whenever I could devote any cash to buying CD’s, there was always that Tim Buckley or Gene Clark re-issue on CD to get or Pat Metheny had a new album out.  The usual story; too much music, not enough cash or time.

I look forward to the day when I can sit my grandchildren on my knee and tell them how I knew Bernard Sumner (except I think it was Bernard Albrecht at that point) when  he was a struggling young 20-something who worked at Cosgrove Hall Films in Chorlton and had this band called Warsaw who he wanted us all to go and see.  I did finally catch up with them, by accident almost, at The Electric Circus in Collyhurst and was taken with the mixture of  sub-Bowie gothic doom and Mancunian attitude they projected, but wasn’t too impressed with the original material or the crappy P.A.. 

By the time I saw Bernard next, a lot had changed; Factory Records had come calling and the band had changed their name to Joy Division.  And that was pretty much that…over the years I would, now and then, run into Joy Division, then New Order at  the bar in The Factory or The Hacienda and Bernard & I would nod conspiratorially at one another; he knew vaguely who I was and that was enough.  Hooky was far more engaging a character, especially once we’d get on to the topic of United.  Ian Curtis always seemed withdrawn except when he was pissed, which seemed to be a frequent occurrence.  Then he suddenly just wasn’t there any more.

I never crossed paths with The Smiths in quite the same way, but my attitude was always that I really liked the early songs from a musical standpoint – especially Johnny Marr’s guitar lines – but I always thought Morrissey was a tosser – and still do, actually.  By the time ‘Meat is Murder’ came out I was already losing interest because the  media’s Morrissey love-in had got out of hand – and so had Mozza, for that matter.

And so to Electronic…2o years late, but so what?

The first thing I realised was that I had indeed heard Electronic; the first single, ‘Getting away with it’ (from 1989) was one of those I’d assumed to be New Order.  I worked through the three albums – Electronic (1991) , Raise the pressure (1996) and Twisted Tenderness (1999) and found much to enjoy in all of them.  The first one was a bit like a New Order album with better guitar-playing, the second one a more evenly balanced affair and the final album was rather different to the other two, sounding like a proper band album and dominated by Marr’s wonderfully melodic guitar playing.  I still haven’t really absorbed all the song titles yet but ‘Late at night’ from the third album has become a big favourite, ‘Getting away with it’ still sounds great and I’m also rather fond of ‘Forbidden City’.  Perhaps most surprising is the cover of Steve Winwood’s ‘Can’t find my way home’ on Twisted Tenderness, which certainly does the song justice.

For myself, I’d say that out of the three albums plus the associated remixes, non-album tracks and alternate versions on the various singles and EP’s, there’s probably a good double-disc compilation to be had from Electronic’s 10-year career.  Sorry it took me so long, boys……….

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