Saturday, July 30, 2011

Electronic (1991)

Here's a super-group of another vintage, a collaboration between the Smiths' guitar figurehead Johnny Marr and New Order's man about melody Bernard Sumner (also a guitar player), with both Pet Shop Boys (but especially Neil Tennant) chipping in on a couple of numbers. The result is a reasonably pleasant, occasionally engaging almost-an-hour that spawned a few singles that kinda almost went over the top. In general, the sound tends more closely toward New Order than the Smiths, except when the Pet Shop Boys check in and drape their signature sound all over their main contribution, "The Patience of a Saint" (even the title sounds like PSB product). This was the first and only fruit of the Marr-Sumner collaboration for something like five years, though there was hardly a dearth of work from them otherwise. From the sound of it, everyone got along fine, but I'm not sure there's much spark. I should say, however, as a Pet Shop Boys fan, that I did welcome "Saint" at a point when the act was starting to stretch out three years at a time between albums, so that's something to take into account. (The best thing Tennant ever did with them, "Disappointed," would show up the following year as a single, and was even more welcome—Very not far off by then.) Those with a similar passion for New Order or for Johnny Marr generally might have had similar feelings. But I can't say this album has worn particularly well. As with another New Order side project, by the Other Two, it has its charms but they pale quickly. It's polite, chugs along with its keyboard beats and inflections and washes. Very pretty. Something to pop your fingers to here and there. Most tracks certainly worthy as fodder on mix tapes-cum-CDs, guaranteed to make friends with similar taste sit up and say, "Hey, what's that?" At one time these little promising collaborations seemed to be all over the place—Jack Frost, with the Church's Steve Kilbey and the Go-Betweens' Grant McLennan, was another one, proceeding with a similar kind of careful, cautiously successful vibe. For the most part they all seem now to work best as placeholders, even if they were probably never intended any such way. Thus, 20 years later, you might want to take this overall as a caveat.

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