Say Hello, Wave Goodbye – The Hoosiers (2011) Single from the album Bumpy Ride, a reissue of the album The Illusion of Safety
Every now and again, a cover version outdoes the original. The Hoosiers take on Soft Cell’s 1982 Number 3 hit is not one such recording, but it comes pretty darn close and, in places, almost betters Marc Almond’s oboe-riddled ode to Soho’s Pink Flamingo, an influential jazz-club that closed after a mere fifteen years in 1967. Here Irwin Sparkes’ motley crew swap the slow-moving grace of the original for buoyant arpeggios and more excitable percussion, choosing also to relocate Soft Cell’s trademark synth motif to the end of the song, where their more twinkly coda gives the song a triumphant, no-regrets feel. In sacrificing melancholy Almond’s camp croon for more accessible, radio-friendly vocal, The Hoosiers do undeniably shed the emotional, reflexive quality of the Say Hello, Wave Goodbye with which we are most familiar – however, they manage to muster a fantastic tribute to ‘80s new wave in the process, with a version that simultaneously shows off their signature mischief and new wave sensibilities.
Closer – Nine Inch Nails (1994) Single from the album, The Downward Spiral
A throbbing, industrial-tinged banger from alternative rock gallant Trent Reznor, Closer is the second single from 1994’s heartbreaking Downward Spiral, an album fraught with inescapable gloom. Widely reviled on release for its blasphemous music video and seemingly misogynistic chorus (“I wanna fuck you like an animal”), I’m not the first to admit how much better this song sounds in its instrumental form. Here, grinding, metallic synths can be heard smashing violently into one another in the chaotic mix, where ghostly, ambient high notes repeatedly build to crescendos that rarely come – but boy, when they do… Producer, Flood is also all over this song. Having just joined Reznor after working the desk on Depeche Mode’s Violator, the rock/synth blend is executed slickly under his supervision. It’s probably this more than anything that makes Closer Nine Inch Nails’ biggest chart hit. And I bet Trent hates that.
A Lie – Celluloide (2002) Track from the album, Naive Heart
A new discovery here people, and a very exciting one too! Originating from Marseilles, France, Celluloide are a fantastically crisp new wave band, boasting an impressive analog sound and a discography of records emblazoned uniformly with Malevich-indebtted, minimalist artwork. A Lie is the opener on their debut Naive Heart, a record whose entirety glimmers with the same frantic sparks of electronic music twenty or thirty years its senior. Singer Darkleti’s deadpan European accent harks cutely back to the appallingly translated Scandinavian synthpop I’ve visited in previous entries, and for me, it’s the best part of the band’s sound – her unconventional metaphors and awkward lexis exacerbate the already pretentious connotations of analog synth music, abstracting simplicity so dourly, that the hamfistedness of the venture is obscured. Most importantly, it’s good, danceable stuff – check it out; there’s a ton of it!
Yeah (Crass Version) – LCD Soundsystem (2004) Single from the album, LCD Soundsystem
I’ve tried with this column, not to cover the same band twice without leaving a big gap between entries. Alas, there is sometimes a band that simply demands coverage, and so, somewhat bashfully, I present the second LCD Soundsystem track in seven weeks. Yeah is a double A-side single from James Murphy and co, released originally as a standalone single in 2004, before its amalgamation into the eclectic wider picture that comprises disc two of the band’s eponymous debut. Available also in the form of the fairly mundane “Pretentious Version”, which runs for a mammoth fourteen-minutes, Yeah is best enjoyed as the “Crass Version”, a slimmer, nine-minute mix that contains approximately one expletive and 540 seconds of the fattest, dirtiest analog synthesis this side of the millennium. Building to a disco-fuelled adrenalin-pumping crescendo, this one is almost certainly capable of melting a good subwoofer. It’s rad.
Hang With Me – Robyn (2010) Single from the album, Body Talk Pt. 2
Robyn is something of an unknown entity in the UK charts. Like anything worth listening to on today’s electronic pop scene, she’s a huge hit in Scandinavia and much less well-known over here. Which is a shame really, because this track is an absolutely brilliant synthpop number – its heart is in a timeless emotional tumult; its head, in a mixtape collection c.1985. Admittedly, it’s not all hers – written by Swedish singer-songwriter Klas Åhlund, Hang With Me is the perfect example of contemporary pop’s addiction to producer-penned hits, but its melodic charm is nothing short of classically Scandy, recalling the buoyancy of ABBA and (bringing it back to Robyn herself for a second) the short-haired, bleach-blonde charm of Roxette. Hats-off to Åhlund for his production on this too – he’s responsible for a full-sounding, deeply rhythmic, pop banger and one whose danceability needs reviving in today’s discos…