ELECTRONIC (LP, Factory Records, 27 May 1991, 52:29) – score 73%
Musicians: Bernard Sumner – vocals, keyboards and programming; Johnny Marr – guitars, keyboards and programming; Neil Tennant – vocals on “The Patience of a Saint” and backing vocals on “Getting Away with It”; Chris Lowe – keyboards on “The Patience of a Saint”; Donald Johnson – drums and percussion on “Tighten Up” and “Feel Every Beat”; David Palmer – drums on “Feel Every Beat” and “Getting Away with It”; Denise Johnson – vocals on “Get the Message”; Helen Powell – oboe on “Some Distant Memory”; Andrew Robinson – additional programming.
Producer: Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr; Engineer: Owen Morris; Mastered by Tim Young; Recorded at Clear Studios, Manchester, December 1989–early 1991.
Electronic was one of the most unusual partnerships of the 90s with New Order’s Bernard Sumner teaming with Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr to produce this hybrid of electronic synth and guitar based pop. The result was for the most part a success. Marr’s infectious “Shaft”-like wah-wah guitar riff coupled with Sumner’s melodic keyboard phrases on the opening “Idiot Country” demonstrate this is a marriage that can work. “Reality” is closer to Sumner’s trademark sound with its extensive programming, whilst the ebullient “Tighten Up” has more of a band feel. The Pet Shop Boys assist with “Patience of a Saint” and “Getting Away with It”, the former featuring Tennant’s lead vocals and Lowe’s lush keyboard textures and the latter (not on the original UK vinyl release) containing a longing chorus and an orchestral approach. “Gangster’s” stuttering programmed rhythms are complemented by Marr’s funky guitar rhythms whilst “Soviet” is a lush and sombre instrumental with Oriental hints and provides a nice interlude before the album’s true classic. “Get the Message” is where the elements of Sumner and Marr’s talents merge to form a wonderful blend of acoustic guitar, insistent bass, subtle synthesizers and sublime melodies, aided by Denise Johnson’s soulful backing vocals. “Try All You Want” is perhaps the least distinguished song on the album feeling a little bit by-the-numbers and “Some Distant Memory” follows suit but is helped by the warming synth motifs in its closing moments. The album finishes strongly, however, with the experimental “Feel Every Beat”, which is perhaps the most exciting track musically with its shuffling bass and piano rhythm, funky guitar and singalong chorus. The production is expansive and full of 80s echo with a pleasing dynamic range. Sumner and Marr would record two more albums as Electronic but their debut retains its distinct charm despite its sound being frozen in time.
1. Idiot Country (Sumner/Marr) (5:02) ****
2. Reality (Sumner/Marr) (5:39) ***
3. Tighten Up (Sumner/Marr) (4:38) ****
4. Patience of a Saint (Sumner/Marr/Tennant/Lowe) (4:11) ****
5. Getting Away with It (Sumner/Marr/Tennant) (5:14) ****
6. Gangster (Sumner/Marr) (5:24) ***
7. Soviet (Sumner/Marr) (2:00) ***
8. Get the Message (Sumner/Marr) (5:20) *****
9. Try All You Want (Sumner/Marr) (5:37) **
10. Some Distant Memory (Sumner/Marr) (4:09) ***
11. Feel Every Beat (Sumner/Marr) (5:08) *****
THE MUSIC PRESS:
NME (David Quantic): “This is a pretty 1990s sort of a record, fresh as a daisy and wearing huge new oxblood Doc Martens” (****)
Q (Phil Sutcliffe): “Its strength is in conflict … The inexorable pounding of the beatbox versus the fragile sadness of Sumner’s voice and the he’s/she’s leaving stories; the symmetry of the synthesized or sampled sounds versus the sheer blood and bone physicality of Marr’s guitar”. (*****)
Vox (Keith Cameron): “Electronic is simply a 100 per cent pure distillation of Marr and Sumner’s respective talents. The hit single ‘Get the Message’ has it in a nutshell: it breaks no new ground; it simply achieves perfection.” (*****)
All Music Guide (Ned Raggett): “Both more and less than what a partnership of Sumner and Marr would promise, Electronic’s debut has weathered time much better than might have been thought upon its release, but ultimately only half works.” (****)