Thursday 15 December 2016


I'm not doing the usual top 20 best whatevers as I'm too busy really. There are a couple of Depeche Mode projects in the pipeline (ha ha etc) which are eating up my writing time and my actual day job continues to annoyingly get in my way. So instead, here's a round of of the Best Music Things that caught my eye/ear/attention this year. 

Before I start though, I just want to say thanks very much for reading all the nonsense I've posted this year and thanks for all your comments. It amazes me to think that people want to read what I write and I'll never quite get over that. Hope you all have a lovely festive season and I'll no doubt see some of at numerous Depeche gigs next year. Anyway, here we go:

BEST BIT OF 2016 #1 - HQFU
HQFU's debut album is one of the finest this year and her live shows are insanely good - it's music that would make the dead dance. The album launch show at Glasgow's Glad Cafe in April was very much one of this year's best bits. I even forced Helen Marnie and Stuart Braithwaite to have a picture taken with me. Not a very cool thing to do I know, but it was me, Ladytron and Mogwai - I wasn't going to miss that. Even admitting I did that is embarrassing, but let's move on.

Helen, Stuart, me and a chap in a hat

Mt Doubt makes music that never fails to inspire or move you. Hot on the heels of 2015's My Past Is A Quiet Beast, In Awe Of Nothing provided more evidence of Leo Bargery's unique talent, with tracks like Afterglow setting the bar high for new Scottish music this year. You really must see Mt Doubt live too to witness the songs taken to new, wonderful heights.

Ok, it probably won't be Violator part 2, but what I've heard about the new album is encouraging. There's a full tour too and I'm already signed up for the opening gig in Stockholm and the London Stadium gig in June with a few more to follow. Brace yourselves for a DM onslaught in 2017 on this site. 

I won't stop talking about them until you all listen. There's something smarter than the average bear about this band and 2017 is going to be the year many more people find out about them. You know where you read it first

Another band who can't stop getting better and better. All the parts you need are there - space disco synth perfection, the catchiest of tunes and remarkably beautiful record packaging courtesy of the ever wonderful Nightschool Records. Fruit Juice is one of 2016's must have releases. Your life is poorer for having it.

Every time Machines In Heaven release something new, they go into territory they've never gone into before and they master it effortlessly. I've come back to this album a lot this year and I never tire of listening to it.

Possibly one of the best releases this year, taking tracks from 2015's magical Age Of Anxiety and remixing them to perfection. I don't think Rodney or the Happy Robots label are capable of releasing anything that isn't just brilliant

In a city already besieged by incredible labels (festive hellos to Hotgem, Nightschool, Scottish Fiction and Olive Grove), Last Night From Glasgow came along and changed the game. A not for profit, crowdfunded label that focuses on the artists above all else with each release a uniquely beautiful thing. They've put out wonderful music by BooHooHoo ( a wristband usb ep), Stephen Solo (a credit card usb) and Mark W Georgsson (a 7" single of all things) among others and have hosted a series of live events, culminating in last Sunday's epic The Christmas Effect gig at Mono. Next year promises to be even bigger for the label and that's incredibly exciting. They are to be applauded for all their work - thanks Ian, Murray and the gang

I strategically missed them out of Best Bit #8 as they deserve attention themselves. Their debut album, Say It All With A Kiss was one of Last Night From Glasgow and indeed this year's best releases. I defy anyone to do anything other than fall in love with the album. Teen Canteen also jointly presented The Christmas Effect with Last Night From Glasgow with lead singer Carla's side project Ette also featuring. As an aside, Ette's Homemade Lemonade album released on Olive Grove this year is another you have to check out

Teen Canteen review

It seems astoundingly big headed to pick one of my own things as a best bit, but in March I did a month long feature on Depeche's Black Celebration to celebrate its 30th birthday. I had a whole lot of wonderful contributors, I interviewed Gareth Jones and, for that period at least, I can say that I knew more about Black Celebration than Martin Gore probably did. It was fun and, along with all the otehr Best Bits, it's why I do this.

I could go on and on but I'm stopping here. I missed out Radiohead's A Moon Shaped Pool, Nick Cave's staggering Skeleton Tree, The Pixies at the Barras, the big Erasure boxset, the fact I managed to get Kraftwerk tickets for next year, superb releases from Zyna Hel and Monkoora and much more. After 2016 started so horribly for music with David Bowie's death (that still looks wrong when you write it down), there was plenty in the music world to find joy in both globally and, happily for me, locally too. Next year will be equally if not more epic and, between Depeche Mode ramblings, I'll try to keep you as up to date as I can.

See you next year.

Friday 9 December 2016


This year sees Erasure celebrate their 30th anniversary with, among other things, a recent acoustic show and an intriguing huge boxset, From Moscow To Mars, which comes out today, 9 December. There is a lot to love to within the box and I recently reviewed it for XS Noize as you can read here: . Rather than review it here too, I thought I'd approach Erasure's 30th birthday from a different angle. I've been a fan for at least 25 of those 30 years and Erasure are one of the bands that have remained a constant in my life, so I thought I'd celebrate the band's anniversary with my own take on the Erasure 30 theme. Here are my 30 reasons why you should you love Erasure.

1 to 5: Some personal highlights:

1. The Chorus album
Let's start with the band's very best work - 1991's Chorus. In an era when Erasure specialised in releasing incredible hit singles, every song on Chorus was a potential top 10 track. From the title track to the gorgeous closing track Home, Chorus is Erasure at their finest. Bonus points too to Vince for his stunning analogue synth work throughout. The bleeps and beeps that run through the album were a particular thrill at the time and they still sound stunning now. If you don't have this album, then you're really letting yourself down. Go and get it now.

2. Drama!
I'll come on to Erasure's remarkable ability with a pop single shortly, but I felt I had to highlight what I think is their greatest single, 1989's sublime Drama! With The Innocents, Erasure effectively mastered pop music, creating one of electronic pop's most remarkable albums, so their next move was always going to be interesting. Drama! added layers and layers to Erasure's sound, creating a powerful, over the top, extravagant masterpiece that still thrills to this day. An outstanding track and, as a bonus fact, one that features The Jesus And Mary Chain on backing vocals. That's quite a collision of two worlds.

3. Oh L'Amour
Simply perfect. As wonderful a love song as you'll get and an example of why early Erasure should not be ignored. How this single failed to have any impact is beyond me. Don't let Dollar's subsequent dreadful cover cloud it for you. Oh L'Amour is one of Erasure's most important singles and a song that remains a much loved part of their live set today. A useless piece of trivia is that it was the first song me and my mate John Harrower attempted when we formed a band in high school. Let's just say we didn't quite match Erasure. Dollar yes, but not Erasure.

4. No Doubt
Erasure's recent albums might not have matched their earlier work for consistency, but they can't be ignored as they contain many gems. No Doubt  is the opening track of 2005's Nightbird and it revisits the soulful feel of some of the band's Innocents era tracks, adding sublime analogue sounds and featuring a chorus that soars. Album openers are tricky to get right but with No Doubt, Erasure nail it. The live version on the Nightbird tour was astonishing.

5. Heart Of Stone
Much like Chorus, The Innocents was full of songs that would easily have walked into the top 10. One of the great Erasure album tracks (and there are many) is Heart Of Stone from that album. It's pure pop perfection with wonderful lyrics where Andy sings of regret over a lost love. Easily one of their greatest songs, the album version, which is as near as perfect as you can get, was surpassed on the Phantasmagorical Tour with a live version that is beyond superb.

6 to 10: B-sides

6. Don't Suppose (Country Joe Mix)
Like any band worth caring about in the 1980's, Erasure knew the value of b-sides and their catalogue is filled with gems that in places rivaled the a-sides they accompanies. Don't Suppose is the b-side to Chains Of Love and it's best sampled in this remixed from the 12" release. The song has a melody that would bring a tear to a glass eye and lyrics that you can't help but adore. The additional banjo on this remix (hence the name) only serves to add a charming degree of country and western melancholy to great effect.

7. Die 4 Love
This track is the b-side from 2014's Reason single and it's almost a crime that it didn't make the cut for The Violet Flame. The song is reminiscent of a Chorus era b-side, which itself is a compliment, and it has one of those Erasure choruses. You know the type - instantly memorable, classic and impossible to forget. Other bands struggle for this sort of thing. Erasure use them as b-sides. That says all you need to know.

8. Ghost
The 1994 single I Love Saturday was released as an e.p. giving us three additional tracks, all of which are worthy of inclusion here. Truly, Madly, Deeply's dark club feel is wonderful and Tragic (Live Vocal) is a spooky electro masterpiece, but it's Ghost that wins the day. 6 minutes long, confident, dark, it's a sensational track and provides a handy indicator for where Erasure were heading next with 1995's self titled album.

9. Over The Rainbow
Over The Rainbow is the b-side of Chorus the first release from the album of the same name. As with anything from that period, this song is unimpeachable genius and it pops up on the 7" and cd single. Sampled German vocals start, leading us into as jaunty a song as you'll ever need, where Andy sings about sitting by a pool listening to ABBA and much more. So, so good.

10. Gimme Gimme Gimme
Talking of ABBA, as we'll see and as you of course know, the band are fans and this was shown when a cover of this track featured as an extra track on the Oh L'Amour 12", appearing again in remixed form on the Limited Edition 12". It's a faithful cover, but it has an Erasure twist and it's one of the first Erasure tracks I can remember hearing, so it's a special one for me.

11-14: Erasure Live

11. Live generally
Erasure are an amazing live band. If you haven't seen them, you really have to experience it. As well as songs you will know inside out, they fill their setlists with classic album tracks, Vince remixes songs to update them for the shows and Andy never, EVER fails to give anything other than an 10/10 performance. As for his vocals live, trust me, you'll struggle to hear a better performer. Erasure will tour next year, so if you haven't seen them, change that. If you're in Glasgow, prepare yourselves for one of the loudest crowds at any gig you'll see next year. Not to be missed.

12. The Phantasmagorical Tour
The Wild world tour saw Erasure fill arenas worldwide and they ended the whole thing playing to a packed Milton Keynes bowl. For the tour following the Chorus album, they instead focused on smaller venues playing multiple nights at the likes of the Hammersmith Odeon and Edinburgh Playhouse. I saw them for the first time at the Playhouse and it was a remarkable experience. A setlist that played all of Chorus, the ABBA-esque e.p, a mechanical swan, Vince in a synth tank, backing singers who (a) were amazing and (b) John and I fell in love with instantly, halftime bingo and so much more - the whole thing was bewildering. It's still one of the finest shows I've seen and it highlights just how good Erasure are live.

13. The Tiny Tour
After a break of four years, Erasure returned to playing live with a hit packed set on the Tiny Tour, so called because they played small venues. Well, small to them anyway - I saw that at the Barrowlands for example. It was the first time tracks from Erasure had been played live and songs like Sono Luminus and Rock Me Gently fitted into their set seamlessly. Vince used old BBC computers on stage too which was rather cool. It was great to have them playing live again and, as they always do, they had the whole of the Barrowlands jumping.

14. The Violet Flame Tour
2014's The Violet Flame is up there with Erasure's best work which puts the album in rather illustrious company. The tour that accompanies it was Erasure's best in years with a live set that mixed classics with new tracks and saw Vince remix a number of songs for the live arena, using classic 12" mixes to great effect. The energy in the performances was a joy to behold and the gigs I saw were just huge celebrations of a band who deserve to be celebrated.

15-17: Albums

15. I Say I Say I Say
1994's I Say I Say I Say is often unfairly overlooked. The band didn't tour the album and Vince barely appeared in any of the videos. This apparent lack of enthusiasm from band is matched by the lack of enthusiasm most people have in the album but it's not album to be ignored. I Say I Say I Say marks the end of Erasure's pure pop phase with a near flawless collection of ten songs ranging from the full on pop of I Love Saturday to the more experimental So The Story Goes. It also features one of the greatest tracks Always which I'll come on to shortly. As a bridge between Chorus and Erasure, I Say I Say I Say is an important Erasure album and one to love.


16. Erasure
This self titled album was released in 1995 and it saw Erasure at their most experimental. Gone were the three minute pop gems, replaced instead by lengthy tracks some of which were predominatly instrumental. The band's ability with melodies didn't disappear however, with tracks like Fingers And Thumbs (Cold Summer's Day) pushing the pop buttons perfectly. The album contains a number of tracks that are among the most gorgeous Erasure have produced - Sono Luminus and Rock Me Gently for example and the lead single, Stay With Me, is Erasure at their finest. Erasure is an album everyone should own.

17. Wonderland
The band's debut may be flawed in places but you can't ignore it. The singles are of course all great, but Wonderland is notable especially for two tracks that, for me, showed that Erasure were onto something special. Reunion and Love Is A Loser still sound as fresh as a daisy and both are simply perfect synthpop. The latter is as good as any of the singles releases from the album and when the band played it on the Phantasmagorical Tour, it received the warmest of welcomes. A sensational song.

18-22: 5 Singles everyone should own (that I haven't already mentioned)

18. A Little Respect
Obviously. I'll even overlook the dig at Depeche Mode in the video ;)

19. Always
Have Erasure produced a more perfect love song that Always? The short answer is no. It's hard to adequately describe how incredible this track is. If you don't love it, you don't have a soul.

20. Stay With Me
As I mentioned above, Erasure at their finest.

21. Heavenly Action
Ignore anyone that says this is a bit too poppy - it's a love song, it's Erasure, it's therefore a winner.

22. Breathe
If anyone thought Erasure's time had been and gone, 2005's Breathe put them right. There aren't many bands who can produce pop music like this. Embrace it.

23-25: E.P's

23. Crackers International e.p.
Not content with releasing chart dominating singles and albums, Erasure decided to release a festive(ish) e.p. in 1988. Crackers International features five songs over its formats. The main e.p. contains four songs - Stop!, The Hardest Part, Knocking On Your Door and She Won't Be Home. Each one is, for want of a better phrase, a cracker with Stop! and Knocking On Your Door yet further examples of how to nail pop music, The Hardest Part a moody number and She Won't Be Home the one song on here that actually mentions Christmas. There's an odd bit after the line "She phones her mum" where there's a sampled voice saying "Hello" which never fails to make you think someone is in the room saying hello to you. Listen to it - you'll see what I mean. The remix 12" and cd was called Crackers International Part II and featured remixes of Stop! and Knocking On Your Door plus a rather spooky take on God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. The limited edition Christmas card mini cd single is a rarity worth having.

24 Abba-esque
If you're going to pay tribute to a band, why not record an e.p. of some of their best known songs and put your stamp on it to such an extent that you end up arguably bettering the originals. Ok, the rap by MC Kinky in Take A Chance On Me is remarkably bad, but that aside this e.p, which also features SOS, Voulez Vous and Lay All Your Love On Me is a masterpiece. The limited edition remix e.p. is superb too. This was Erasure's first number one which seems remarkable given the singles that preceded it and it was richly deserved. It was also Mute Records' first number one.

25. Am I Right?
Am I Right? is the third single the band released from Chorus which means of course that the song falls in to the act of genius category. The single took the form of an e.p. with three superb extra tracks Carry On Clangers, Let It Flow and Waiting For Sex keeping Am I Right? company. One Saturday morning at the time I saw an advert in Melody Maker saying a remix e.p. had been released too so I jumped on the bus from Castle Douglas to Dumfries, headed to Barnstorm records and bought it. The power of advertising eh? The remix e.p. is wonderful too, featuring remixes of Am I Right? by The Grid, Chorus by Moby and Love To Hate You by LFO together with an acoustic version of Chorus album track Perfect Stranger. 

26-30: The Rest of Erasure

26. Artwork
One aspect of the Erasure's releases that stands out is the artwork, certainly up to and including the Erasure album. Crackers International's festive art (below) is beautiful, the Chorus album cover's robotic features echoes the music perfectly and The Circus era singles and album are absolute peaches. The band took a lot of care with how they presented each release and the artwork only served to highlight how magical the songs it packaged were.

26. Remixes
Like their labelmates Depeche Mode. Erasure were at the forefront of remixes in the days when the notion of 12" remixes simply meant adding 8 bars of extra bassline in the middle of the 7" version. Throughout their career, they've releases some outstanding remixes, too many in fact to run through in any depth here. The Am I Right? remix e.p. mentioned above is notable, but really most of their remixes up to recent times when they've become a bit too generic are worth having, especially from The Innocents era. Andy and Vince have even turned their hand to remixing themselves in recent years with Vince's takes on Stop, Chains Of Love and Hallowed Ground particular favourites of mine.

27. Pop! The First 20 Hits
If you take this album and Pet Shop Boys Discography, you don't need any other pop music in your life. I love the fact Pop!  was subtitled The First 20 Hits as all that does is say "yeah we've got these 20 songs, they're all brilliant and we've only just started." To get a sense of exactly what Erasure achieved in their first 7 years, listen to this album in full and prepare to be blown away. The band's contribution is British music is, I think, hugely undervalued and criminally so. Erasure are simply one of the most important bands this country has produced and Pop! The First 20 Hits is all the evidence in support of that fact that you will need.

28. Andy Bell
Extravagant, blessed with a voice almost unmatched in music, an incredible stage presence, a prominent openly gay artist in a time which was a hugely important thing in a time when that wasn't necessarily the done thing in mainstream pop and much, much more. Andy is a gem and still manages to impress after all these years, with obvious joy every time he steps on stage. Fronting a duo is difficult when the other half hides behind banks of synths but Andy Bell makes it look effortless. He should be revered by everyone.

29. Vince Clarke
Vince is one of my heroes. He's a man who has managed to be in three of my favourite bands which alone is quite some feat. Depeche Mode causing too much pressure? Ok, jack that in and form Yazoo for a quiet life. Hmm that didn't work, Start a band with a singer no-one knows? Ah.Cue thirty years worth of incredible music. Vince simply cannot stop writing hits, no matter how hard he tries. He's easily one of the most influential figures in electronic music history and the thrilling thing is, he's getting more productive each year. The more Vince the better I say. One of my ambitions is to visit his studio in New York just to bask in the glory of his huge analogue synth collection. And to shake his hand and say thanks too of course.

30. Thank you Erasure
Here's to another 30 years.

Tuesday 6 December 2016


BooHooHoo are the newest artist on the impeccable Last Night From Glasgow label and their debut e.p., the rather niftily titled DebutHooHoo has just been released. It's available in all the usual digital places and on a very limited USB wristband which is a quite wonderful thing. That's the key thing about Last Night From Glasgow releases - they're unique and joyous beasts, each one as inventive as the last. The bands whose music fill the formats are happily of the same ilk.

DebutHooHoo is three songs long, each a full on riot of synthpop meets disco meets 80's style power pop. Lead track Mould Me is the star with its synth washes sweeping majestically through layers of pure pop wrapped in synth bassline that could easily be an offcut from A Broken Frame era Depeche Mode. That, as you all should know by now, is no bad thing. Think Leave In Silence's one finger bassline, realise how perfect that is, and that'll give you a clue. As all good songs should do, Mould Me is carried along by its impossible to ignore chorus. It's one of those choruses that you feel immediately familiar with even though you're hearing it for the first time. An impressive feat and an superb track.

There's an 80's style feel throughout here, though that's not to say that this is an overtly retro feeling release. Dreams Tonight features an dangerously amount high of funk bass, but it survives, moving quickly into Hot Chip territory, echoing that band's ability to make the even inanimate objects dance. Closing track Now Is The Season turns all the influences I've mentioned above up by a factor of about 100, building up to a frenzied blizzard of sampled vocals and yet another stupendous chorus. You're almost of breath by the time it ends. I think I can speak for everyone in Nice N Sleazy's at the e.p. launch gig on 30 November when I say the live version left me feeling like that.

DebutHooHoo is yet another marvellous example of just how fertile Glasgow's electronic scene is. One of my favourite bands at the moment are The Insomniac Project, a band I've covered many times on this blog, and BooHooHoo are following in their footsteps with this release, with a pop lead take on disco infused synthpop. These are exciting times with bands like these showing everyone how to make this music work and DebutHooHoo is a captivating release. I'd recommend you get this.

DebutHooHoo by BooHooHoo is available now on Last Night From Glasgow.

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