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Electrical Language: Independent British Synth Pop 78-84 - Various Artists (Cherry Red Records)

7 June 2019

The late seventies saw a number of independent record labels spring up, their aim was to record and release material by smaller acts, mainly punk bands. These bands were ignored by the larger labels at first, until those independent releases began to sell. In a way similar to how Sun Records launched the careers of so many fifties stars. One such independent, or ‘indie’ labels is the UK based Cherry Red Records. Formed in 1978, the label grew out of a rock music, promotion company by Iain McNay (Still at the company) and Richard Jones. The first release exactly 41-years ago this month was a punk single by the band The Tights.

The scale of the bands who originally released material under the Cherry Red Records flag is staggering. They included such diverse acts as The Runaways, The Fall, Dead Kennedys, Inspiral Carpets, Suzi Quatro and Pere Ubu. As the label moved into the reissue sector, the range of artists grew again considerably. With all that in mind, over the coming weeks there are two box sets worthy of note which are being released, the first was released this week titled Electrical Language -British Synth Pop 78-84. The second release, at the end of June is 1977 – The Year Punk Broke. These are sprawling compilations which act as a time-capsule of music recorded in a period of change, as glam-rock turned to punk, krautrock to new wave and the arrival of synth-pop at the dawn of the eighties. It does not get as nostalgic as this.

Taking the first set, Electric Language which is released the 7th of June, it is a mind-blowing, treasure trove of singles and rarities. In total eighty-tracks across four discs, which highlights of course eighty acts as each artist only gets one track included. The set plays out with an effortless flow of material which, at times you may recognize some elements. Of course, the other side of it, and perhaps the most important aspect of sets such as this, is the discovery of new bands and sounds. Although, there is some big names included, such as The Human League, Thomas Dolby, OMD, Fad Gadget, lesser known and earlier tracks by these greats are included. Beside these you will discover music by bands which are as good and interesting, such as Section 25 (video clip below), New Musik and the brilliant original version of The Normal’s “Warm Leatherette”, a song made famous by Grace Jones. Of course the rarities are complemented by the oddities such as “Happy X-Mass” by the Hybrid Kids and the cover of the T.Rex classic “Children Of The Revolution”, which are intriguing if not essential to hear.

Overall this presents a deep dive into the vaults, there is so much to discover, that the more familiar bands become obscured almost. Through the clever sensibilities used when putting the set together, helps project a consistent flow of three-minute pop tracks. No real trips into experimentation which would disrupt the order of the music. But at it’s very core, Electric Language displays how technology was embraced in the post-punk era. Where guitars were dropped in favor of synthesizers, and songs became more precision based within the studio fabric.

All this, of course is pretty neat, and enjoyable, with such an array of artists there is also something else included, that is the packaging. Electric Language comes as a hardback book presentation, with a staggering 12,000 words of liner notes about the music included. That immediately cuts down on the online trawling, as all the information is already at hand. This is a focus point, with an introduction by UK music journalist Dave Henderson, augmented by some snazzy photos and illustrations. There is also some pieces by the artists themselves, everything is as perfect as it gets. The track listing is included below to give the variety and scope on offer. This is something for both fans and casual acquaintances of the genre, a run through of some prime cuts from the vaults of Cherry Red Records.

Track List:

DISC ONE:
WINDPOWER – Thomas Dolby
SCIENCE FICTION – Alan Burnham
WARM LEATHERETTE – The Normal
STAY WITH ME TONIGHT – Alex Fergusson
TARANTULA – Colourbox
FANTASY – 100% Manmade Fibre
BANDWAGON TANGO – Testcard F
ELECTRICAL LANGUAGE – Be-Bop Deluxe
THE WORLD – Dalek I
HONOUR AMONG THIEVES – Chain Of Command
RED FRAME/WHITE LIGHT – Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark
RED CASTLES – The Legendary Pink Dots
LIFES ILLUSION – Ice The Falling Rain
THE HUMAN FACTOR – Music For Pleasure
SHE’S AN IMAGE – Poeme Electronique
I’M THINKING OF YOU NOW – Box Of Toys
THE PLANET DOESN’T MIND – New Musik
HOPE DEEP INSIDE – Schleimer K
THE DISTANCE FROM KÖLN – Native Europe
TECHNICAL MIRACLE – Voice Of Authority

DISC TWO:
CIRCUS OF DEATH – The Human League
XOYO – The Passage
CROWDS – A Popular History Of Signs
OCTOBER (LOVE SONG) – Chris And Cosey
FEEL SO YOUNG – Laugh Clown Laugh
CROATIA – Basking Sharks
MR NOBODY – Thomas Leer
RICKY’S HAND – Fad Gadget
HYPNOTIC RHYTHM – Local Boy Makes Good
DROWNING IN BERLIN – The Mobiles
EVEN NOW – Edward Ka-Spel
LYING NEXT TO YOU – Passion Polka
RABIES – Naked Lunch
DO IT – The Limit
WORK SONG – Robert Calvert
BABY WON’T PHONE – Quadrascope
IT HAPPENED THEN – Electronic Ensemble
IN THE MORNING – Jeanette
NIGHTLIFE – Those Attractive Magnets
MY COO CA CHOO – Beasts In Cages

DISC THREE:
YOUR LOVE IS LIKE A SLUG – The Bodhi-Beat Poets
VEIL LIKE CALM – Eyeless In Gaza
DESTITUTION – Camera Obscura
GOOD TIMES – Drinking Electricity
HAPPY FAMILIES – Zoo Boutique
FEELS LIKE WINTER AGAIN – Fiat Lux
FALLING DOWNSTAIRS – Colin Potter
OUR LITTLE GIRL – David Harrow
IT NEVER RAINS IN OUTER SPACE – Futurhythm
ZENNOR – Goat
VIDEOMATIC – Final Program
TADDY UP – Pink Industry
YOU DON’T LOOK THE SAME – Play
CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION – The Fast Set
TRACE OF RED – Two
LYING HERE – Shox
DAYTIME ASSASSINS – The Builders
BEATING HEART (12″ VERSION) – Section 25
ABSENT FRIENDS – Joe Crow
JAMAICA DAY – Faction

DISC FOUR:
GENERATOR (LASERBEAM) – Tim Blake
TOUCH – Lori And The Chameleons
THE SECRET AFFAIR – Jupiter Red
I’M YOUR MAN – Blue Zoo
EVEN ROSES HAVE THORNS – Jesus Couldn’t Drum
PAINT IT BLACK – Techno Pop
CHASE THE DRAGON – Kevin Harrison
OTHER PASSENGERS – Thirteen At Midnight
YOUR VOICE – Freeze Frame
STAY WITH YOU – Time In Motion
LIVE WIRES KILL – The Toy Shop
SURFACE TENSION – Analysis
TIME – Paul Haig
CONTEMPLATION – Solid Space
COMMITTED TO VINYL – Martin O’Cuthbert
LOOK DON’T TOUCH – Science
THE WISHING TREE (MEGATREE MIX) – Charlie’s Brother
WORKING MODEL – The Quarks
THERE’S SOMEONE FOLLOWING ME – Eddie & Sunshine
HAPPY XMAS (WAR IS OVER) – Hybrid Kids

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