The Church Of Me
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Kissing in the churchyard, I know a righteous woman

Wednesday, January 09, 2002
BIG MUSIC FOR A BIG WORLD = SMALL SALES

Propaganda. "A Secret Wish." Played it last night for about the second time in a decade. It didn't sell in '85. I suspect that even if this were to be repackaged now under the guise of a new S Club 7 or Atomic Kitten album, it would still do the Fosbury flop.

Is it still any good? Well, admirable but heartless, like sturdy Hitler Youth refrains having gone through the cleansing process. The songs here - even the cover of Josef K's "Sorry for Laughing" - are more like photocopies of songs, or business plans for songs, without actually being songs in themselves, and without the hard and pitiless sincerity that one gets (or got) from their second cousins Laibach, or the genuine siphoning of art from kitsch achieved by their brothers-in-law Yello.

The best things on the album remain the "hits" - "Duel," of course, which although not climbing beyond number 21 in the UK thanks to a rather charmless performance on TOTP apparently did end up going gold, which appears with a remix of its "evil twin" "Jewel" - a stirring clatter which somehow should have been used on the Ridley Scott Silk Cut-in-the-mountains advert (the first cut won't hurt at all!). And of course the absolute masterpiece "Dr Mabuse" - the only track actually produced by Trevor Horn (he left the rest of it to Steve Lipson, and it shows; very much the work of an efficient disciple who, as Morley said of Theresa Bazar, knows which buttons to press, if not why) which roars out of its Gestalt paddock in 12 different directions. The Martians' idea of a Bond theme tune. Percussion drops like Ali left-hooks or the gates closing in on McGoohan. Orchestral orgasm to rival "A Day In The Life." MC voiceovers by the subsequently enigmatically absent Andreas Thein. On the LP/7" version, the "Don't be a fool" instruction is followed by what would eventually be a patented Pet Shop Boys poignant descending chord sequence. Sell him your soul. Never look back. Only number 27 in the Fun 40; clearly too rich, too over-lit, two years too late, or 17 years too early. Although for the full story one must hear the full 12"; atonal Andrew Poppy string swathes give way to a mournful electropop coda - the "Brookside" theme as restaged by Herzog.

Problem with the Props is that you could never identify for them or feel for them, just gasp, but with oxygen rather than semen. They existed, but only as templates. Out of time? How come, then, that the Pet Shop Boys barely six months later were at number one with the most ZTT of non-ZTT records? Good timing, maybe - all the other synth duos had gone to the wall by that time, and Erasure were still warming up on the touchline - but there was something approaching a heart there, a reason; not just an excuse for Morley to smear his Baudrillard and Ginny Woolf all over the breadboard like spent bramble jelly.

ZTT of course couldn't have done anything with the PSBs; they knew what they wanted, and eventually worked with nearly all the ZTT operatives (Horn/Dudley/Jeczalik/Langan/Lipson) but didn't need them.

Nor of course could they have done anything with the Smiths, but that's another pickle to boil.

Or Scritti. "Cupid and Psyche 85" - big production for a big world (Langan and Jeczalik again, albeit under Arif Mardin's exec) but a point. Someone/thing in which you could believe. And it was a top 5 album. Green couldn't go anywhere afterwards, of course - Anomie & Bonhomie pointedly glitch-free. Really two sides of the coin - one side the caress, the other the jackboot. And you can't understand one without immersing yourself in/subjecting yourself to the other.


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