I’ve been in bands my entire adult life. For most of that time, it was the most important element of my identity. Being in a band was not only a crucial creative outlet, but also a social space; it was how I met people beyond what is now the GLONO crew.
The first band I had--or at least the first group of guys who tried to get a functioning, performing band together--was The Silence. We were really only together for a summer, but we played a couple of shows, if you count basements as venues, and wrote and recorded eight songs. The best of these songs was a perfect little piece of electro pop called “Forever Summer,” written by Rick Grossenbacher.
Rick was our keyboardist and sequencer. He loved electronic dance music way before there was anything called EDM. His flavor was more in the vein of Camoflage, Front 242, New Order and Depeche Mode. Man, he loved Depeche Mode. He and Dan, our lead guitarist, would go on and on quoting videos, interviews and studio banter I can only assume came from outtakes and bootlegs.
“Start the tape, Mart.”
At least I think that quote is from Depeche Mode. I don’t really know because that wasn’t my scene. I came from the Brit Pop school and was specifically focused on the Madchester sound of The Stone Roses. Happy Mondays and The Charlatans. The most important Manchester influence for me though was Johnny Marr and he was then in his dance band project, Electronic, with New Order’s Bernard Sumner. So if keyboards, drum machines and sequencers were good enough for Johnny, they were good enough for me.
In a recent interview with Evening News 24, Johnny Marr admitted that he really likes the music he’s made over the years.
“I really loved the Modest Mouse album. I like a lot of Smiths records. I like Dusk by The The. I like some of the Electronic singles. It’s all part of the same life to. If I owned a jukebox, which I don’t, I could probably fill it with 45s out there that I’ve played on and enjoy.”
Here are the five singles featuring his own work he said he would put in that jukebox.
Just consider the pedigree: one is a founding member of Joy Division and the voice of New Order, the other is arguably one of the most influential guitarists of a generation and one half of the songwriting duo that launched the Smiths. When Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr announced their new partnership as Electronic in 1989, expectations were higher than anyone could possibly meet and quickly tempered when Marr proclaimed they’d be recording “dance music you could listen to.” While Morrissey was still on tour in flowery shirts urging mopey teens to “hang the DJ,” his former songwriting partner was donning gold chains and penning “Feel Every Beat.”
Bernard Sumner’s songwriting ability hinges not on adroit lyrics or blissful melodies, but on his knack for conveying so much by saying so little and in what are sometimes laughably sentimental nursery rhymes. Half of his lyrics, removed from the trappings of song, border on inane ramblings and nonsense, but within the framework of the right sonic elements, hit that sweet spot that defines good pop music. When they miss though, the songs stumble out as pap foolishness.