As with the DLX edition of their previous album, “English Electric” is bundled with a CD of demos. These are not for the entire album, but the brief [26:11] glimpse into the processes of making “English Electric” offers up a few real surprises amid the more perfunctory material.
“Atomic Ranch [02.05.11]” as given here, is nothing but the synthetic voices that comprise the tune. This makes it an ideal stem for future remixing, should one be so inclined. Apart from that, it’s kind of pointless. I can barely discern any differences in “Helen Of Troy [24.02.12]” apart from a running time that’s 45 seconds shorter with a more abrupt cold ending and the dry vocals by McCluskey that are more upfront in the mix.
Both edits of “The Future Will Be Silent” [“Future 1 [14.05.12]” & “Future 2 [v. 1.3]”] here were taken from the “second movement” of the song and offer little enlightenment. Quite frankly, I can’t tell the difference between the versions apart from running length. The real revelation on this disc is the demo included for “Stay With Me [Idea 3]” as it is in every way but melody and rhythm, a completely different song. While the album version is a slick piece of schlager performed by Paul Humphreys, the demo version is sung by Andy instead with a completely different set of lyrics, albeit with the same title/conceit.
While Paul’s smooth vocals are a pleasure to listen to, the more emotive lyrics of Andy make this demo the clear winner here. They don’t traffic in maudlin sentiment to quite the degree that Paul’s do. I also like the undulating lead lines that add a little finesse to the song, but by golly, the repressive oom-pah beat that marks this as a sop to their [considerably large] German market still renders this song close to dead on arrival.
“Hopper 1” is the germ from which “Night Café” sprang and the oscillating bassline hook was shown to be a killer right from the start. The brief demo must have been a real lightbulb moment for the band, since they didn’t radically alter it from sketch to finished song.
“Dresden [05.02.09]” actually dates from the “History Of Modern” sessions and the early demo here sketches out all of the music bed’s chirpy characteristics. Apart form adding lyrics, they had this one down cold at the time.
“Hopper 2 [16.05.12]” opens with a different intro that’s strongly reminiscent of the synth pulse of Sweet’s “Fox On The Run” [!] and the refracted bass riff that characterizes the song doesn’t appear for about 15 seconds or so. The track also has nifty white noise pads used throughout to accentuate the rhythm in a starkly machine-like fashion. This serves to increase the contrast between the backing and the vocal. But by far its most distinctive characteristic are the falsetto vocals [!!] that McCluskey sings the tune in throughout this full length demo. It’s so arresting, that I must have listened to the demo disc ten times before I noticed that McCluskey sings the first verse three times in a row with no variation at all!
Finally, “Jupiter [Our System] [21.05.11]” is the instrumental demo of “Our System” and it’s at least 45 seconds longer than the LP version, but as interesting as the backing track is, without its lyrical thrust, the track goes from being the clear standout on the album to also ran status.
The DVD that comes in the tin has an interview with Andy and Paul but the real meat is a section on the DVD where they each discuss the impetus for each of the albums songs like living liner notes. Finally, three animated videos for three of the four interlude tracks were produced by Henning M. Lederer. Two of these are like animated information graphics but the longest and least typical one, for “Atomic Ranch” is like some optimistic 1950’s vision of the future gone horribly awry. Stills from them are among the card inserts included in the collector’s tin. The image from the “Atomic Ranch” video is used at the beginning of this post.
Each tin is numbered and signed by Andy and Paul, and I’m guessing that the 7×7 large booklet of lyrics and liner notes in the tin is the same material produced for the CD booklet, albeit larger. The last and most significant perk in the tin is the blue 7″ single produced for the incredible “Our System.” It has an exclusive B-side [“Frontine”] that I’ve yet to hear, sadly. The stylus in my turntable is now three years old and I feel that it’s in my best interests to buy another before playing any mint vinyl I may have bought on a worn stylus. How I’ll afford that new Ortofon 10 stylus when I’m selling CDs just to make my car payment is beyond me right now, though.
Next: …Dramatic conclusions