What is Yello’s secret?
Dieter Meier and Boris Blank are well into their pension-drawing years, and yet their desire to make cutting edge electronic pop music remains as strong as ever. Their latest return from the wilderness feels as though in the wake of a long absence, but in reality the duo have kept at close quarters, plotting their next album even while pursuing solo ventures.
And here it is, the brightly coloured Toy – where after a brief intro we alight on planet Yello with some vintage Meier vocals, given from the soles of his boots. Limbo, the track in question, is everything we know and love them for – the gravity defying voice, lyrics dealing with strange but enchanting combinations of technology, mechanics and love, given over an urgent and thrilling beat. The sound picture suggests a nocturnal freeway scene, Meier pursuing his dual target of a night out on the town and some exclusive company.
The voice is in sharp contrast with that of the female guest vocalists. Fifi Rong is the most distinctive of these, sprinkling magic dust over Kiss The Cloud and Happy. The former song is a kind of fairy tale, set to shimmering strings – a soft but piercing piece of work that illustrates how Yello can effortlessly embrace the old and the new. It even has shades of Nellee Hooper in the string writing. Malia, meanwhile, brings an unexpected and poignant sorrow to Cold Flame, observing how “I cry cos I miss you, miss you cos I cry”.
Yello’s music is bonkers and often brilliant. The urgent beat to Limbo is reprised in both Tool Of Love and Dialectical Kid, the danceable beats popping out of the speakers. The sensitive side of Cold Flame is utilised further in 30,000 Years, an introspective on the average length of time a person spends on earth. “I’m looking deep into my time. What have I done and why?” ponders Boris Blank.
The one regret is the relative lack of vocal action for Meier himself. An arch storyteller, he deserves to dominate more than the female voices. We do however get the excellent Starlight Scene, a duet with Malia that crackles with atmosphere but also raises the eyebrow with its brilliantly absurd lyrics. “I give to you a sadistic kiss,” she sings. “You make me laugh,” responds the sotto voce Meier. It’s like a detective theme in waiting.
Toy is full of enjoyable twists and turns, mind, even in the closing trio. Magma is a deep, atmospheric sound picture with random vocal and instrumental hiccups, while Toy Square is the opposite, a hyperactive piece of electronica. Finally, Frautonium brings us full circle with its bright synth and positive outlook.
Yello’s return to our consciousness is a cause for celebration, and will delight their legion of loyal fans, especially given their first ever live shows that are due before the end of October. When they take place it will be easy to see how Toy interchanges between the pioneering, madcap style of the late 1970s and the current technological landscape. This latest Toy of theirs is a lot of fun, even if it could have been better still had Meier had been given a bigger part.