January 21, 2015

Getting Away With It

In the final year of the 1980s, two of the biggest bands in Britain if not the world were imploding. 

The Smiths were a band that sounded like their songwriters were constantly on the edge of jumping off the highest building in Manchester.  This resonated with listeners and critics both, and they were hailed as "the most influential British guitar group of the decade."  They eschewed the keyboard and synth excesses of the time, instead concentrating on an echo-and-minor-key guitar-based sound.  Despite independent success unlike any seen before, the band split in 1987 from internal pressures.

New Order was formed from tragedy.  When the lead singer of Manchester-based "post-punk" band Joy Division hanged himself on the verge of the band's first North American tour in 1980, the survivors reformed as New Order.  Throughout the '80s, the band mixed what we'd call "alternative music" now and electronic dance music to create a critically acclaimed and influential sound that left major fingerprints on modern techno.  However, the various members all had audio interests that wouldn't fit the band's style.  Side projects were common, with a resulting loss of time for the main group.  Stumbling to the end, New Order broke up in 1993.

But in 1989, lead singer Bernard Sumner was wanting to add more synth programming to New Order, and was rebuffed.  He took to the recording studio alone, intending to make an "anonymous" album of whatever he felt like, but came to a discovery early on: he hated working alone.  Picking up the telephone, Sumner called Johnny Marr, the ex-guitarist of The Smiths, and asked for his input.  The two created a track, entitled "Lucky Bag", all loops and electronic drumkits, and called themselves Electronic.  If it had stopped there, Electronic would have been an interesting non-entity, a footnote in music history if that.  But of course it didn't... I wouldn't be writing about it if it had, right?

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Posted by: Wonderduck at 12:18 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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