Album Reviews

Andy Bell – Electric Blue

(Sanctuary) UK release date: 3 October 2005


Andy Bell - Electric BlueI thought I would like Andy Bell‘s Electric Blue. And even if I didn’t go overboard for it, I was looking forward to Jake Shears’ (of Scissor Sisters – here using his real name Sellards) contribution – but even that did not move me positively. I also thought there might be something secret lurking on the CD, despite its being marked as ‘not designed to play in computers’. Alas, wrong again. All the ’18’ stuff on the DVD-shape packaging is rather tantalising – what is the person on the CD cover putting into his/her mouth? – but rather like the whole album, it turns out to be a damp squib.

When most of the 14 tracks (mostly co-written and recorded by Philip Larsen and Chris Smith – Manhattan Clique) begin they throw out the musty smell that hits a room when you switch on an electric heater – familiar, slightly unpleasant but a sign that something is at least working. This may appeal to those conditioned to electro-funk or predisposed to the mindless repetition of rather vacuous words, but it leaves something to be desired.

We are moving into a post-Post-modern world, and so it is more difficult than ever to assess the achievements of painters, sculptors, music-makers, because the traditional standards of taste have been rejected as subjective and now there is no longer any objective validation. Still, we have to try to live up to our responsibilities (as the most privileged society in the history of human endeavour) by trying to make some sense of what we see and hear.

Aurally this album is about as exciting as a pacemaker – the life-giving riffs are few and far between, but you notice when a track stops. Erasure front man Bell’s voice is comfortable, but the lyrics are undeveloped or – worse – utterly banal. (“Just stay here beside me for the rest of my life.”) He sings, “I don’t know what you’re looking for…” – answer: melody, song, invention, imagination…

When they try to condition us with an ultimately jejune electro-thump, thump, thump – insistently proclaiming there is no other imaginable beat (just as there is no place to be other than in the reigning club/disco, and nothing better to do than blend in with the clones) – we have every right to challenge them. And to be honest, I thought New York had moved on. Title track Electric Blue contains references to “supernature” and “dominatrix baby” and sounds remarkably like Alison Goldfrapp‘s recent breakthrough album – homage, or just a sign that this is the sound of the moment?

So, this CD is easy listening; I like it, I guess. There are one or two lines that stand out memorably, such as, “We only have one life / This is not a rehearsal” (from Love Oneself). I shall probably continue to play this CD because there is something in it – a wistfulness – that grabs me, but it does not move me to get up and dance, nor does it command undivided attention. But it was never intended to do that.

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Andy Bell – Torsten The Bareback Saint
Andy Bell – Non-Stop
Andy Bell – Electric Blue


  • Barney Ashton-Bullock

    Can I just say, Mr Alex Jeffrey, that I think your review reeks of spite. I don’t think it is balanced in that you have brought to bear upon my work the wrong tools of analysis.

    You do those of us who dare to do something different through heart, passion and feeling a real disservice. I don’t know who you are or who your purport to be. You write this very verbose, analytical, dismissive and discursive crap and, in effect, demotivate everyone involved in a brave project; a project where people leave the theatre in tears and where I get scores of e-mails telling me how much they have been touched and moved.

    For all your laboured learnedness you are insulated from feeling emotion by the very academic tools you use to try and understand other people’s art. Why don’t you just piss off until you have something supportive to say about those of us creating edgy populist work at our own time and expense. You haven’t at any time tried to make contact or make any constructive criticism to any of us involved in the album and then elect to go public with your misunderstandings. I’ve heard your musical works and I have to say, they ain’t all that darlin! Get a life.