on 19 May 2002
Back in the dim and distant past (the late 80s), I was searching for the missing link between the European synth-pop and rock I still burned with a passion for and the more current dance music at the time.
I found it in Electribe 101. A Birmingham-based quartet (don't ask), they really hit the spot. They were fronted by the stunningly enigmatic Billie Ray Martin...
So the story moves on: the band released several incredible singles, won some acclaim and then an album and called it a day. The other three became the Groove Corporation and Billie signed to Magnet and released this masterwork a few years later.
It's a stunning album. I reviewed it for a music mag at the time and the songs are truuly something. Bristling with a tough Kraftwerkian dynamic and laced with as much as 'soul' as one could ask for, it's a veritable rollercoaster of emotions.
Running Around Town catches you early with its insistant riff and the title track is a superb tour-de-force. "There's a body on the floor that looks like me" she says during it and you know exactly what she means.
She has a voice like no other: soaring, plaintive but with an attitude that says "I can be tough and vulnerable every other second".
Simply brilliant. I've seen her live twice and am about to see her again. She and Magnet parted company but she knocks out her stuff on her own label. Quite a bit is on sale here on Amazon.
Buy this album. I've had it since its release and still play it regularly. The songs will touch you deep inside.
I clinched my deadline. So can you.
on 28 June 2007
This was/is an interesting album -- after a tortuous production and re-engineering process involving (BT) Brian Transeau, this 13-track collection finally slipped out some five years after Billie Ray Martin had made her seminal album Electribal Memories with Electribe 101 (which - incidentally - still sounds as fresh as it did 17 years ago. Yes, 17 years!)
The hallmarks of over-attention are there, and it seems as though Transeau wanted to satisfy original fans' hunger for more of the same cool electronica, while showcasing BRM's twangy, country music leanings in a way that wouldn't alienate those same fans.
What you get is undoubtedly very glossy - I'd be amazed if BT hadn't been listening to Annie Lennox's irresistibly overproduced Stay By Me when he was putting together the title track, which similarly chucks everything in but the kitchen sink; lots of melodramatic little flourishes, as befitting a big old torch song. The infectiously hooky Running Around Town features the "bouncing beat" prevalent in a lot of house music at the time, but has worn quite well. His approach works best when dreamy synths run a parallel race with Billie Ray's soaring vocals, as on Still Waters. Space Oasis is the nearest to an Electribe re-tread (although it's very like BT's mid-90s work, too), and I Don't Believe, with it's gospel choir and country-fied arrangement hints at the sustained greatness of BRM's superior 2001 classic, 18 Carat Garbage.
In contrast to that album, the production of Deadline sounds very much of its moment - what pulls it out of that, 12 years on, is the pure quality of the songwriting and Valkyrie-like power of the singing. And BT cleverly adds lots of cunning little fade-ins and out to make the incongruity of some of the songs a lot less jarring - it's still a bit too full-on for, say, dinner-party music but great for blasting out on a rainy Sunday!