Saturday, August 06, 2011

Raise the Pressure (1996)

To my surprise I'm prepared to call this second Electronic album the better of the first two. It's a surprise because I was actually quite fond of that first one in its time, and dismissed this in its as something of a disappointment. But somewhere along the line it really got its hooks in. The songs that work most on me here, such as "Out of My League" and "Second Nature" and "Time Can Tell," were not necessarily the attempts to find a hit—generally this follow-up never did nearly as well as the first. I'm certainly fond of the kickoff track, "Forbidden City," which eked into the UK top 20 and sets the terms for much of what's to come: sparkling production, self-conscious mid-'90s electronica flourishes subordinated to soft mood and charged atmosphere, and the soaring finery of gifted songwriters who just happen to be clicking better than anyone, even themselves, probably could have suspected. No Neil Tennant this time, just Johnny Marr and Bernard Sumner and their merry band of keyboardists (one of the latter, Karl Bartos, gets co-writing credit with Marr and Sumner on nearly half of the 13 tracks here). It's a long album, lasting over an hour, and came at a time when the traditional approaches to listening to an album were dying their last deaths. Thus it has always tended to work best for me on shuffle, where the sequencing is remarkably apt on the fly (the vacuous 44-second "Interlude" notwithstanding). In such fashion, it has wormed its way permanently into my heart. Listening to something like "Out of My League," floating in and out of its pleasures, with its plain-spun attack, its unfeigned innocence and aching joy, and its ability to insinuate so deeply, it's hard to connect back to the various alienations and disaffections of Joy Division and the Smiths, where these fine fellows find their origins. But there you have it. I have a lot of admiration and respect and love for that early groundbreaking work, of course, and in terms of iconoclasm it still has it all over the Electronic project. But I just view the Electronic project as more horizon-broadening, more wall-tearing-down, middle-aged perhaps but worthy in its own right. If this is selling out, I'm buying.

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