Andy Bell – Non-Stop (Mute Records album, 2010)

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mute records | stumm316 | 07/06/2010

Electric Blue, Andy Bell‘s debut solo album, was a hedonistic club-friendly affair (mostly) that signalled a significant departure from his day job as one half of Erasure. Recorded with Manhattan Clique, who had remixed tracks from Erasure’s return to form Other People’s Songs and supported them on that album’s tour, the album saw Bell collaborating with Propaganda’s Claudia Brucken and head Scissor Sister Jake Shears. It felt like Bell was getting something out of his system, scratching an itch if you will, and the chances of a second solo album seemed slim; though undoubtedly a good album, Electric Blue was at times a little inconsistent.

This is not a charge that could be levied at Non-Stop, Bell’s second album. Recorded with Pascal Gabriel, still affectionately remembered as producer of the string of hits by S’Express (although I love him best as a member of Peach and producer of Inspiral CarpetsRevenge Of The Goldfish), Non-Stop is a much more focussed dancefloor affair. I haven’t kept up with dance music trends since about the mid-Nineties, so I’ve no idea what particular sub-genres this would fit into, but what I do know is that this is a 4/4-fest that operates about a million miles away from the electronic pop of Erasure.

Across ten tracks (eleven if you buy the non-physical version from iTunes), the pace only drops with the delicate slow-mo electro of ‘Slow Release’. The rest is a slew of quality, thudding upbeat dance tracks, including the low-key two singles – ‘Running Out’ and ‘Will You Be There?’ – released under the alias MiMó.

What’s perhaps quite unusual is that given the genre’s obsession with euphoric themes, Non-Stop is altogether quite dark; there are few overtly love-themed tracks here. Since I Say, I Say, I Say, Bell’s lyrics for Erasure have – in the main – focussed on the trials and tribulations of finding, being in and falling out of, love; unless you count the edgy hotel rendezvous with a cigar-smoking, moustachioed character on the track ‘Subject / Object’, the vibe is in places much more overtly sexual than Erasure would dare. ‘Touch’, with its buzzing synths, is possibly sinister, until Bell’s lyrics about not wanting to be a ‘loser‘ kick in (delivered in Bell’s best ‘Mockney’ accent).

Probably my favourite tracks here are the title track, with its deep bass loops and ‘Lost In Music’-meets-Kraftwerk wide-eyed absorption, and ‘Cosmic Climb’ – the iTunes-only bonus track – which is a straightahead, no holds barred, club track. The lyrics on the latter are the only set I can hear that align with Bell’s claim that he was going for pure throwaway on this album – the rest of the album’s lyrics are very clever actually. I’m also a fan of ‘DHDQ’ (‘Debbie Harry Drag Queen’) which is gleefully observant of certain niche areas of clubland’s eclectic nightlife; imagine a dance-music version of Lou Reed’s ‘Walk On The Wild Side’ hitched to a disco rocket and relocated from Downtown Manhattan to London’s Soho on a Friday night.

Much has been made of the frankly bizarre collaboration with Jane’s Addiction’s Perry Farrell on ‘Honey If You Love Him (That’s All That Matters)’, and it’s a good track, just not up there with my personal favourites. Apparently Farrell, an avowed fan, suggested the collaboration and wrote the track; his contribution is certainly more significant than Shears’ almost absent contribution to Electric Blue.

Pre-orders of the CD album from Mute Bank came with a download of a Vince Clarke remix of ‘Non-Stop’; on recent mixes Vince has displayed a knowing ability to knock out sterling dance floor grooves, and his version of ‘Non-Stop’ is a perfectly minimal, sparse take on the more dense, robotic Pascal Gabriel version, with few of Clarke’s signature squiggles and sequences.

First published 2010; re-edited 2015

(c) 2015 Mat Smith / Documentary Evidence

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