Album Reviews

Andy Bell – Non-Stop

(Mute) UK release date: 7 June 2010

Poor old Andy Bell. He’s always been one to arrive a year or two late at the party. Erasure, joyfully cheesy as they were, left it until 1986 to release their first album; cementing their status as the also-rans of ’80s synth-pop. Never taken wholly seriously, they played out as the campy, superficial younger brothers to the Pet Shop Boys. And now, just as the electro revival starts to wane, Andy Bell releases an album of electro dancefloor anthems. Naff? Ah, who cares: it’s not as if such accusations have ever put him off.

Naffness aside, anyone who’s in the market for mainsteam dance music will have a serious bone to pick with Mr Bell here: Non-Stop sounds exactly like Madonna‘s Confessions On A Dancefloor. It’s one thing to arrive late at the party; it’s quite another to find that Madonna has got there first and scoffed all the vol-au-vents.

Just like Madge’s silver jubilee album, Non-Stop is intense, repetitive, medium-to-dark electro-house music. Like pretty much everything Madonna does these days, it’s co-written with a credible genre producer (here it’s Pascal Gabriel). The spaces between the songs simply aren’t necessary: to all intents and purposes it’s a megamix of three-and-a-half minute floor-fillers.

Musically, it’s slick, professional and knowingly referential. It’s either perfect or deathly dull, depending upon your level of predisposition to electro-house music. However, the slick adherence to formula has the unfortunate effect of rendering Andy Bell’s lyrical and vocal contributions pretty much redundant. For one thing, while the music smacks of 3am e-fuelled hedonism, Bell’s voice sounds as boyish and na�ve as it did in Erasure. And, more often than not, Pascal Gabriel has only left enough quiet bits for Bell to drop in short, glib rhyming couplets about seeing a nice piece of ass under the disco ball, having a shimmy with him, popping home for a spot of how’s-your-father, and so on.

Perhaps there’s something to be admired here. Most men approaching 50 spend their Saturday nights watching Britain’s Got Talent and farting silently into the sofa; at least Andy’s out there meeting new people.

And then, just when you think you know exactly where you stand with Non-Stop, Andy Bell pulls something quite magical out of the bag. No, it’s not a bottle of poppers; it’s Perry Farrell, the legendary Jane’s Addiction frontman! His appearance shouldn’t come as a surprise: after all, he does bear an uncanny resemblance to any of the gaunt, ketamine-addled 50-year-olds to be seen stumbling around Vauxhall of a Sunday morning: the supporting cast of this album, if you will.

Written and co-performed by Farrell, Honey If You Love Him is streets ahead of anything else on Non-Stop: both cleverer and weirder than the Madonna homages which precede it. Echoing Sparks‘ late-’70s disco period, it’s hugely infectious, with a deftness of touch and sense of humour which is missing elsewhere. “I’ve got to confess / your ex was the hotness,” hisses Perry with bug-eyed Russell Mael creepiness.

In all, nothing to dislike here – but surely there are more satisfying jobs than hoovering up Madonna’s crumbs.

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  • 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.