They reached Number 11 with their first single, ‘Getting Away With It’, and made their live debut in front of 70,000 Depeche Mode fans in Los Angeles with Pet Shop Boys
Tennant and Lowe. Yet they’re only
now releasing their first indie album. Andy Spinoza prods around the circuitry of Electronic.
Working out Electronic takes some elementary pop maths: adding the baby-faced quarter of the
legendary New Order to the workaholic quarter of
the legendary, defunct Smiths.
Bernard Sumner was thrust into the role of singer and lyricist when Joy Division‘s Ian Curtis committed suicide in 1980. Now he‘s a kind of father-figure to the football fan-cum-warehouse raver who has kept faith with Manchester music from the punk era to post-acid Mondays and Northside.
Johnny Marr is the boy born with a golden guitar I
in his hand. Since the split with Morrissey, he‘s been promiscuous with his considerable talents. working with everyone from Bryan Ferry to The The.
Barney plus Johnny equals not a supergroup, says Sumner. but a ‘project‘, with an eponymous LP on release. Some ofit sounds like recent New Order. with a heavy reliance on the pop techno sound that has infatuated the Factory group since their massive 1983 hit ‘Blue Monday‘, though there‘s enough melodic variety and tasty guitar punctuation to make it a stunning addition to the
Unlikely bedfellows‘.’ ‘I guess me and Johnny working together was a surprise for many people. says Sumner, ‘but that unlikeliness was part of the beauty ofit.
‘Electronic was my idea. really. I started the project on my own and it all got a bit too much for me,’ he adds, with typical self-deprecation. ‘I’ve got to like someone I work with and what music they’re into. But especially what inspires them. From what I‘d heard about him. I liked him and thought I’d get on with him.‘
Certainly they share the same disarming, wry form ofhumour. ‘It took three months to hit it off writing together— what do they call it? — getting a
indie-dance crossover. l
.vibe. It was a while before we got to the body fluids
stage.’ The LP‘s tracks were written in every conceivable way, from one partner bringing the
other almost finished songs. to them writing
; together from scratch. ‘I didn‘t send the lyrics by
fax or anything.‘ says Sumner. ‘I tried to
encourage Johnny to play more guitar, but he
wanted to go down a new avenue.‘ ‘Ifyou think there‘s not enough guitar, I‘m to
: blame for that.‘ muses Marr. ‘l was really careful
to put it in only where it was really needed. I‘m into the purity ofthe songs. lfyou‘ve got a modern concept of being a musician, you‘ve got to have a grasp of the overall picture. not just be a master of one instrument. I love guitars. I‘m a real muso still. but the idea was to have an overall concept, like people like William Orbit, Matt Johnson and Mark Moore. I haven‘t by any means hung up my guitar for my Roland drum machine. In fact, my next ambition is to form a three-guitar Lynyrd Skynyrd-type thing with duelling lead guitars.‘
Man, an old Joy Division fan with a particular affection for Closer. claims always to have kept up with New Order. while Sumner‘s enthusiasm for his partner‘s old band is somewhat cooler.
‘It took me a while to realise what The Smiths were doing. At the time they were out. I‘d given up
Electronic: batteries not included Get out your Duracels, lt’s Electronic
listening to guitar bands. I thought all the best chords had been used by 1969. I was into New York hip-hop. But I eventually got into The Smiths. . . even when Morrissey was in them.’
There will be no major tour for Electronic. Marr is well known for his love of life on the road — he's soon to go out live with The The — but Sumner, now in the studio with New Order, can’t abide it.
‘I‘ve been touring now for eight years, and even The Beatles didn’t do it for that long,’ he sighs, adding, ‘It killed Jim Morrison. The last New Order tour of the States was 38 dates, and I was exhausted. I want to end up enjoying my work. I don’t want to end up like those groups who say the same thing on stage every night. But we will be doing a few dates in Britain and the States.‘
Less certain is the future of Electronics recording career.
‘Who can tell? It’s a zen thing.‘ replies Marr. Sumner seems slightly keener. ‘We‘ve got a title for the next one,‘ he says.
Electronic '5 eponymous album is on Factory Records.
ON THE FOLLOWING PAGES: HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT O COLE PORTER O WEDDING PRESENT REVIEW
The List 31 May — 13 June