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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 271
Wednesday, Oct 10, 2012

“Tighten Up”
Electronic

1991

“♫ I used
to run
away but
I can’t
no more
♫”

Do you remember 1991’s self-titled Electronic LP from the new wave super-group with Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr? When word of this collaboration hit the music press, images of Smiths like chords blending beautifully with New Order’s synth melodies came to mind. The result was more dance-oriented rhythm than most Smiths fans expected but that was okay with Johnny. Marr talked about his memories of recording Electronic when he said, “I think this album worked really well, there’s some great songs on there. I know people really loved The Smiths, but I really, really loved that record. It doesn’t sound like anybody else. To this day…It doesn’t sound like New Order, it doesn’t sound like The Smiths, and it’s got a really amazing atmosphere about it. Whenever I hear it I’m super proud of it. There’s a few like that but that was particularly special.”

New Order fans were more enamored with Electronic than Smiths devotees. I loved them both, I never saw The Smiths live but I did see New Order live. To most fans, 1991’s Electronic is only some distant memory but not to Bernard. Starting in 2009. Sumner resurrected this majestic Electronic track when he performed “Tighten Up” while touring with Joy Division band mate Stephen Morris and their new group Bad Lieutenant. Bernard’s Electronic partner, Johnny Marr talked about the dynamic between him and Sumner when he said, “There are things that Electronic do that I can only do with Bernard Sumner, and Bernard can only do with me. There are reasons for Bernard and I to work together that he and I know about. And there is a shared influence that we have that we only have with each other. We have an agenda that we share…I don’t think people quite realize about that, about Bernard and myself. I think people think I was on Venus and Bernard was on Pluto, but it wasn’t really like that. I think The Smiths and New Order actually were more similar than people think. No matter what kind of framework the music was in, it was emotive.”

“Tighten Up” is the one song that captures the expectations of Marr and Sumner’s much anticipated united recording. Sumner’s synth beats and Marr’s riffs blend perfectly on the dynamic dance sound that is “Tighten Up.” I wish the rest of their self-titled had less Bernard’s Mancunian rapping and more of Johnny’s guitar but that was Marr’s plan along as he explained, “The truth is that I cut out some of my guitar parts when he wasn’t looking, ‘cos it was sounding too much like Johnny Marr. I didn’t want to dilute the music, I wanted it to be pure.

Johnny Marr didn’t want to be remembered only as an Indie-guitar legend, this former co-founder of The Smiths, wanted to show off his love for synth coated dance music. Marr’s goal was to blend his skillful riffs of soul to the Manchester electro sound that Bernard Sumner made famous in New Order. Marr explained the philosophical goal of Electronic when he said, “With Electronic, our ambition with every song was to have the beauty and drama of Ennio Morricone, the innovation of Kraftwerk, the attitude of a young British rock band and be super-catchy and modern too. I’m super-proud of Electronic but we tied ourselves up in knots, day after day and week after week, developing ideas to fulfill that ambition. I don’t agree that Electronic was an out-of-time oddity – The Best Of is a really great record – but we were never going to be able to sit with New Order and The Smiths. The weight of our history meant we were always going to be judged as second best before we even played a note. Let me see someone cross The Smiths with Joy Division, in all its forms, with all the characters involved. It’s not going to happen. But I’m alright with that.”

I still remember when they opened with The Pet Shop Boys, for Depeche Mode at Dodger Stadium in 1990. I was living in San Antonio at the time, far from L.A. I would have loved to seen Electronic in concert. I always imagined Electronic being a Bernard dance party where Johnny Marr plugged in and layering his five string magic over Sumner’s decadent beats. Sound enticing? I invite all New Order and Smiths Johnny Marr enthusiasts to relive every beat as Electronic will “Tighten Up” the volume circa 1991& turn in, tune in and groove out.

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