Warner Brothers, 1991


REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


The “Electronic” project seems unlikely on paper. Here are two guys -- of course with a few strictly extraneous similarities -- both successful musicians, being members of two of the most influential British bands of the 80s (The Smiths and New Order), and both hailing from Manchester.

Musically, however, Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr seem all too difficult a pair to come together and cut a record that seems so harmoniously done. Johnny’s band, The Smiths, was angst-ridden and anti-political, full of distressing and meaningfully depressing innuendos camouflaged smartly behind the potemkin village of lead-singer Morrissey’s crooning yet soothing singing and Marr’s melodiously inviting guitar-lines: it was anti-pop dressed in sheep’s clothing.  my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Sumner’s band, New Order, was pure pop. It was disco with a nonconformist’s attitude of taking conventional pop to a new plane. These folks, though anomalous, were about beautiful techno music, offering adorable but stupid ballads with definitely no feeling of discontent like Marr’s band.

So stylistically, both Marr and Sumner came from bands that had very little in common. Still, Electronic did happen, and from the feel of the record one gets the impression that both of them had a great time making it.

Electronic is a well-made and entertaining dance record. Sadly, for those who would expect Johnny to unleash his grandeur with the guitars that we are all so familiar with from his days with The Smiths, this collaboration might hit the blow of disappointment. Electronic, in a lot of ways, seems like a New Order record minus bassist Peter Hook’s killer bass lines.

This dance record has absolutely no trace of The Smiths' aura. The credits (among other things) read, “guitars, keyboards and programming by Johnny Marr.” On this collaboration Marr seems to have done what he had never done before -- play the keyboards to such an extent. Notwithstanding, there is a strong presence of the acoustic guitar (and subtle hints of electric guitar) on most of the songs.

The lyrics especially, which are puerile at best, should strictly to be ignored: “When you go away I start to weep / you’re too expensive, girl, to keep” (“Get The Message”). Yes, we get the message. Probably Johnny was woolgathering whilst the lyrics for this album were being written.

So what if Electronic sounds like just another New Order record and has not even a trace of “The Smiths” sound whatsoever? This was a seemingly unworkable collaboration to begin with, and considering the results it seems to have worked out pretty well, despite all odds.

Rating: A-

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