Yello: Claro Que Si – US – CD 
- Daily Disco
- No More Roger
- Take It All
- The Evening’s Young
- She’s Got A Gun
- Ballet Mechanique
- Quad El Habib
- The Lorry
- Homer Hossa
- Pinball Cha Cha
While the “Bimbo” single on Ralph was the first Yello I had heard [on community radio in Tampa], the first record I found out in the wilds and bought was something else. It was easy enough back then to find the Ralph pressing of “Claro Que Si.” While I had a jones for hearing “Bimbo,” I am at least pragmatic and know when to be flexible. As it turned out, “Claro Que Si” was a strong introduction to Yello. “Daily Disco” got the album off to a rousing start with one of Yello’s dynamic dance tracks as singer Deiter Meier vacillated between two vocal characterizations to contrast with the flanged synths and jittery sequencers of Boris Blank. This was a track that actually belonged in its namesake; an early example of Yello’s club appeal, which was just one side of a multifaceted branding at the time. As if the next song, “No More Roger” didn’t make abundantly clear.
The band had traveled from Switzerland to San Francisco to meet with prospective label Ralph Records since they were fans of the idiosyncratic Residents. The trip was a good thought since Ralph signed the band and issued their first two albums. “No More Roger” sounded like little else out in the 1981 marketplace with roiling, liquid synths providing the melodrama underneath Meier’s chorused, vocoder vocal. The stark melodrama of the instrumental “Take It All” was a throwback to the queasy cinematic landscapes of the debut album, which I had yet to hear when I got this, but makes perfect sense here.
It served as a long introduction that segued into “The Evening’s Young,” which was the first Yello video I had the pleasure of seeing brief clips of on cable TV somewhere. I was just as taken by Meier’s cinematic eye [and penchant for lighting gels] as I was with the electrifying music. “The Evening’s Young” posited a fascinating portrait of a barfly questioning his redundant existence while Boris Blank and the band created a driving, motorik psychedelia. With the processed tapes of Carlos Peron adding mysterious textures and the solid drumming of Beat Ash and guitar of Chico Hablas all folding into the rich mix. At one point Hablas’ guitar attempted to try for a Tom Scholz styled Boston riffage but Blanks synths stepped up to quickly obliterate the guitar.
The video above was made for the track even though there was no single issued in any market! And the album version contained a dramatic coda [not in the video] that segued into the last song on side one. The brilliant musical “film noir” of “She’s Got A Gun.” The tense rhythm of people walking the city night streets underpinned the storyline and Hablas’ languid guitar was operating in a sort of David Gilmour space with its torrid licks of barely suppressed desire of the kind that propelled this scenario. Deiter Meier was at his suave best here; capable of going mano-a-mano against the likes of Bryan Ferry.
Side two was less pop oriented and more sprawling. If the first side was a night in the city, the second half of the album was a day’s journey through the countryside, with vast areas of no-man’s land populated by desert nomads and speed-crazed truckers. “Ballet Mechanique” featured Meier’s outré vocal characterizations and was punctuated by Reggae rhythms from Beat Ash that served to increase the track’s eccentricity.
“Quad El Habib” was a Bedouin drama with guest vocals from Zine El Abidine [presumably not the Tunisian strongman ousted a decade ago]. The synths streaming like North African winds through the song with clattering synth rhythms punctuating the off beats for an almost Latin flair. Leading to stylistic whiplash with the brash characterization of “The Lorry.” Meier’s vocal was in your face with his almost musical wordless bellowing which constituted the song’s “chorus.”
Still more different was “Homer Hossa.” With Carlos Peron’s field recordings suggesting a sunny afternoon on Mediterranean Sea. With birdsong and distant breakers underpinning the sounds of local fishermen with the delicate melody wafting across the almost tribal drums of Beat Ash. It’s so lush and biological, it almost feel like it could be a cross between something from Brian Eno’s “Another Green World” and a Martin Denny record.
The album wrapped with another of Dieter Meier’s portraits of an individual with a unique point of view in “Pinball Cha Cha.” The music bed was an intriguing mixture of French Chanson and proto Acid squelch over serious cha-cha rhythms. But not before dipping into John Barry Bond theme shenanigans in the middle eight. In the world of early Yello, truly anything could happen…and often it did! This time the idea of making a video coincided with releasing the song as a single.
Listening to the first three Yello albums just drives home how much that Carlos Peron brought to the program with his Enoesque credit of “tapes.” But his field recordings broadened the scope of the band’s soundscapes. Once Blank had a Fairlight, he may have thought he could fulfill that same role once Peron opted out for a solo career. But sampling sounds for manipulation on a keyboard is a far cry from the environmental coloration that once was in the band’s toolkit.
I think that Yello lost something when Peron left, but at least they still had the live drums of Beat Ash and the gorgeous guitar stylings of Chico Hablas for another several albums. But as with Kraftwerk, the eventual downfall of Yello was tied in my view to the band’s obeisance to the conventions of dance music when originally, that was just one aspect of the band’s point-of-view instead of being the whole enchilada. The joy of an album like “Claro Que Si” was that it blended field recordings, world music, electronics, psychedelia, and yes, dance music into a quixotic synthesis that was startling and unique. By the time of album number eight, nearly all of the band’s creative gas was empty from their tank for my ears. The last one I heard was “Pocket Universe” which wasn’t worth the dollar I paid for it. I should try some of their more current goods to see what they have gotten up to but truth be told, I enjoyed the Dieter Meier solo album from [yikes] seven years ago far more than the last two Yello albums I still bothered to keep.