Then: Miss Kitten is the stage name of French DJ, Caroline Herve. In the late 90s-early 00s her signature sound of ice cool, detached, droll speak-singing became synonymous with the short-lived electroclash scene. Interestingly enough, her fame came from her collaborations with other artists; first with The Hacker (Frank Sinatra, 1982), Felix da Housecat (Silver Screen Shower Scene), and Golden Boy (Rippin Kittin, Autopilot). By 2004 the electroclash scene had been pronounced dead and with it many of the artists who had defined the genre. Miss Kitten decided to branch out on her own and released her first solo album, I Com. The album was well-received critically and saw minor success in Europe. It was followed up by Batbox in 2008 and Two in 2009, but neither of these albums made much of an imprint, although Kitten is High from the former was a return to her original sound.
Miss Kittin is back and is giving fame another shot with a new album, Calling From The Stars, due out next month. To gear up for the release, she has just released an ep, Baseline, the video for which appears below.
Men Without Hats are unfairly most associated with their hit single, The Safety Dance. Although this was their biggest hit, they have released a wealth of material including a half dozen albums and other charted singles. Men Without Hats formed in Montreal in 1980. The original core consisted of Ivan Doroschuk (vocals, keyboards), Jeremie Arrobas (keyboards & electronics) and Ivan’s brother Stefan Doroschuk on guitar. They took their name from not wanting to wear hats during Montreal’s cold winters. They released their first EP, Folk of the 80s in 1980. The EP contained fan favorite, Antarctica . After a series of lineup changes, including founding member Arrobas leaving and Allan McCarthy being recruited for percussion and electronics, the band returned to the studio and recorded their debut album, Rhythm of Youth, which would go on to worldwide acclaim. Lead single, The Safety Dance, would become a top 20 hit in their native Canada and a top 10 hit in both the US and UK. Three other singles were released from the album; I Got the Message, Living in China and I Like. Of these, I Like was the most successful as it became a minor hit in the US charts. A series of lineup changes occured before they released their followup album, the oddly named, Folk of the 80’s (Part III) (odd since there was never a Part II). The album was a commercial failure and only saw limited success in Canada with single, Where Do the Boys Go. Reshuffling the line-up yet again, Men Without Hats again found success with their third album, Pop Goes the World in 1987. The title track saw them returning to the top 20 charts in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. There would be 3 albums after Pop Goes the World, however, none of these were commercial successes. In 1991, their album, Sideways saw a radical departure in sound; gone were the synthesizers that made them famous, now replaced with electric guitars. It was a low point for the band and the album was unable to secure a US distributor.
Sadly, in 1995, keyboard and percussionist, Allan McCarthy, who was involved with the band at their peak, died of complications from AIDS. Lead singer Ivan Doroschuk reformed the band name with hired backup musicians to play a couple music festivals in 2010 and 2011 and the band was embraced. Last year, they opened for The Human League on a couple of their US tour dates. This year Ivan has announced that he will be releasing a new album, Love in the Age of War, the first album in nearly 10 years under the band’s moniker. The album was recorded with some help from Ivan’s brother Colin Doroschuk on backing vocals, Lou Dawson on keyboards and James Love on guitar. It was produced by Dave Ogilvie of Skinny Puppy fame. The lead single from the album is called, Slicing Up Eyeballs, and we are happy to report that it is a return to their original sound that we found most endearing. At this point, only a streaming radio version is available so you will need to forward the video about a minute and a half before the song kicks in.
Then: Scottish singer and songwriter, Jimmy Somerville, is most known as the original lead singer for Bronski Beat and force behind The Communards in the 80s and for his solo work in the 90s. Bronski Beat formed in 1983 when Jimmy Somerville, Larry Steinbachek and Steve Bronski, all flatmates in London, decided to create a synthpop band whose music would embrace the gay experience. After only a couple of live performances, they were signed to London Records and released their first single, Smalltown Boy, which became both an anthem to the gay community and a commercial success on the British singles and American dance charts. This was followed by Why, which also became a hit. Their debut album, The Age of Consent soon followed and went platinum in the UK and peaked in the top 40 on the album charts in the US. With their new-found success, the band quickly returned to the studio and began recording a new song, Run From Love. The single, however, would never be officially released and it would be the last time Somerville contributed his vocals. At the time of its recording, tensions between the band were mounting as Jimmy Somerville had increasing personal and ideological differences with the other members. As a result, Somerville left the band during the band’s peak and formed The Communards. It was with the Communards, Sommerville scored his biggest hit, a remake, inspired by Thelma Houston’s own remake of Don’t Leave Me This Way. It spent 4 weeks at number one in the British Singles Chart and went on to become the highest selling single of 1986. It was also his only top 40 single in the US. The band split in 1988 as Jimmy Somerville pursued a solo career. Somerville had his most success as a solo artist when doing remakes. His most successful original track, Heartbeat, released in 1995, found him returning to number 1 on the dance charts in the US.
Although Jimmy has been active in the music business, he has not repeated the same level of success he has had since the mid 90s. In 2010 Groove Armada released History. The song featured Will Young on vocal duties and prominently sampled Smalltown Boy. In 2011 Somerville released a dance EP called Bright Thing. This year he provided vocals to the Scratch Massive track, Take Me There, which we featured on here. He has just released a new EP called Momentum. Below are two highlights taken from it.
Then: Visage were a synthpop pop band most associated with the New Romantic Movement (Duran Duran, ABC) of the early 80s and the famed Blitz Club (the inspiration and set location for the musical, Taboo). Vocalist Steve Strange met former Rich Kids drummer, Rusty Egan while both were working at the Blitz Night Club in London in 1978. Joined by Midge Ure they created a demo cover version of the Zager and Evans hit, In the Year 2525, but it was not picked up. They then enlisted fellow Rich Kids member, Billie Curie and with the help of producer, Martin Rushent, released their debut album in 1979. Their first single, Tar, didn’t have much impact and success would allude them until 1980, when now signed to Polydor Records, they released, Fade To Grey, which became a genre defining anthem of the emerging synthpop movement and would climb to number 1 in 9 countries. By the time came to create their followup album, however, Midge Ure and Billie Curie had moved on to form Ultravox, but agreed to come back to record The Anvil. Success was moderate and they scored a top 20 hit with the first single, The Damned Don’t Cry. After this album, however, things went downhill fast for the band. Infighting and other band committments left only original members, Steve Strange and Rusty Egan. Due to contractual agreements, they hired studio musicians and completed their final album in 1984, Beat Boy. The album was a critical and commercial disaster with no hit singles and it had soured the ears of many, ourselves included, who had loved their first 2 albums. The band soon called it a day.
Now: Rusty Egan moved onto producing for a short time and now djs, still playing 80s style synthpop music. He has completed two mix tapes for our favorite blog, The Electricity Club that include many of the bands we write about and love. Steve Strange, sadly however, has had personal troubles that at times, have become public. In 2002 he released his autobiography, Blitzed!, that addressed his heroin addiction, depression, finances and sexuality. Steve maintains he is living clean and sober now (he maintains he has even given up cigarettes). Rusty and Steve recently reunited and run The Blitz Club website. They say they are releasing a fourth Visage album this year, and although they insist to be recording new material (including a collaboration with Midge Ure), nothing has been finalized yet. If they do, be sure to check it out here. In the meantime, Steve Strange has a new project, Detroit Starrzz, a collective of artists, producers and re-mixers. They have released a trio of tracks we have included below.
Then: Sinead O’Conner is an Irish singer who first came to prominence in 1987 with the critically lauded album, The Lion and the Cobra, recorded when she was only 20 years old and during a pregnacy. It would contain 5 singles, Troy, Mandinka, I Want Your (Hands on Me), Jerusalem and Jump in the River and was one of our most-played albums of the year. Although the album was a mild commercial success, it would be her next album, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, and in particular, the single, Nothing Compares 2 U that would propel Sinead O’Connor into a household name. The single, a remake of a song Prince wrote for his band, The Family, was a massive success; it reached number 1 in America and the UK and another dozen other countries. You would think she would keep the same blueprint for her follow up album, but instead she changed gears for Am I Not Your Girl?, a collection of mostly jazz standards. It was a huge gamble with little payoff as it did not reach the same level of success as her previous album. It was during this time Sinead began her relationship with controversy. On October of 1992, Sinead O’Connor appeared on Saturday Night Live as their musical guest. She sung an a cappella version of Bob Marley’s War, but changed the lyric “racism” to “child abuse” to protest the recent sex abuse scandals that had been making headlines in the Catholic Church. For the finale, she ripped up a photograph of Pope John II and declared, “Fight the real enemy.” The reaction was massive, dividing her fans and the public. Her next album, Universal Mother, was not met with the same level of critical and commercial success and Sinead O’Connor became more known for a series of questionable life decisions than for her music, such as being ordained a Catholic priest and briefly becoming a lesbian, then taking it back. Although Nothing Compares 2 U would be the obvious choice, we actually prefer the emotionally raw, Troy.
Now: Sinead is back and is set to release a new album, How About I Be Me (And You Be You)? The first single will be The Wolf is Getting Married. Sadly, Sinead O’Connor is still mired in controversy and her own personal demons. In January, after a recent breakup with her fourth husband, she sent a tweet to fans asking for help seeking a psychiatrist to prescribe her psychotropic drugs because she felt her life was in danger. The press seized on this and sensationalized the story while mocking her appearance, all at a time when she was most vulnerable. Although Sinead has had many ups-and-downs in her career, the one thing that has remained constant is her powerful voice that expresses a uniquely raw emotional vulnerability. It is precisely because Sinead wears her emotions on her sleeve that we love her and we are thankful for it.
Then: Orbital are considered one of the most prolific electronic artists of the 1990s who are known as much for their live improvisation performances as they are for their music. Orbital was founded in 1989, when brothers Phil and Paul Hartnoll recorded rave anthem Chime on their father’s cassette deck. It would chart in the top 20 and put them on Top of the Pops. Their profile rose in 1992, when they reversed the vocal track of the Opus III song It’s A Fine Day to create Halcyon and the accompanying remix for it (retitled Halcyon + On + On). This remix would be a fan favorite and it has appeared on countless film soundtracks. Their third album, Snivilisation would utilized vocals by a then relatively unknown, Alison Goldfrapp. In 1994 they released In Sides, whose single, The Box, saw them enter the top 20 for a second time and it would become their best selling album. The found their most success from with the singles Satan Live and The Saint. The former was a collection of live recordings while the latter was an updated version of Edwin Astley’s theme song that was used in the movie of the same name. Subsequent albums, The Middle of Nowhere and The Altogether would be certified Silver. Orbital broke up shortly after the release of their final album in 2004 (The Blue Album).
Now: Having re-formed in 2009 after half a decade of solo experiments, brothers Phil and Paul Hartnoll are together again with a new song and video, Never, The band is also letting fans download it for free off of their website. The track is to coincide with a tour and a new album which they plan on releasing sometime next year.
Then: Kate Bush is considered one of the most influential and self-expressive artists of the past century. Her contributions are so great, that it is simply too hard to imagine where artists like Florence and the Machine, Tori Amos,and even Bjork would be, if she hadn’t first paved the road for them. At the age of only 16, Kate Bush was discovered by Pink Floyd‘s David Gilmour who helped her get signed to EMI. It would take another 2 years, however, before her debut album, The Kick Inside would be released because her management felt that she was too young to deal with the emotional rejection if the album was a critical and financial failure. To tie her over, her record label gave her an advance, which she used to finish school and take dance lessions that would shape later songs and videos. The Kick Inside was finally released in 1978 and would be a huge success, selling Platinum in the UK, and its lead single, Wuthering Heights, which she wrote when she was 13, would be a top UK single, and she would become the first woman to reach number one in the UK charts with a self-penned song. Wuthering Heights would stay at the top of the charts for 4 weeks, be certified gold, and become her best selling single. Second album, Lionheart soon followed and Bush was publically displeased that it had been rushed. Third album, Never for Ever would enter the charts at number 1 and would be the first album by a British female solo artist to top the UK album chart. Kate would reach her creative and commercial peak with the release of 1985’s Hounds Of Love. Lead single, Running Up That Hill, saw a return to the top 3 in native England and would be her only top 40 US hit. Her followup album, The Sensual World, began to divide fans, as some felt that it was “too commercial”, but in our humble opinion has aged the best. It would also be her best selling US album, and was certified gold. The Red Shoes would her be her last album before taking a 12 year hiatus. It is often considered the least favorite album from fans.
Now: In 2005, Kate returned with Aerial, her first album in 12 years. King of the Mountain would be the only single lifted from this album. Earlier this year, Bush released Director’s Cut, which were reinterpretations of songs taken from The Sensual World and The Red Shoes. She is also set to release a new ablum, 50 Words For Snow, which is set for a November 2011 release. The first single, Wild Man, has leaked and sees a return to her original sound.
Then: Cause & Effect are an American Synthpop band that were most popular during the early 1990’s and were one of the last synthpop bands to reach moderate success in the US charts. Their debut album, Another Minute, contained two top 10 dance hits and two US charted singles. The most successful of these singles, You Think You Know Her, peaked within the top 40. Things were looking very promising for the band, but tragedy struck the following year, when co-founding member and keyboardist Sean Rowley suddenly died when on tour with Information Society. Vocalist/guitarist Rob Rowe took some time off and recruited Keith Milo to create a reformed band. In 1994, they released their second and final major studio album, Trip, that included It’s Over Now which was to be their last song to make the US singles chart. It was also a change in sound that featured guitars more prominently against a clubby backdrop.
Now: Cause & Effect never broke up and have released albums independently every few years or so and have experimented with different sounds. The band is releasing their fifth studio album, Artificial Construct as a three-part series (how very Robyn) to be released over the course of the year. They have just released a single and video for the “part 2” of the series called Happiness Is Alien.
Then: Composer Vince Clark is perhaps one of the most prolific songwriters of the synthpop genre, having previously been a member and principle songwriter for Depeche Mode’s first album and creating the short-lived, but highly influential Yaz. Vince recruited Andy Bell, and together they formed Erasure and released their first album, Wonderland in 1985. Although it contained the now classic hits Who Needs Love Like That and Oh L’amour, it failed to make much of an impact when it first came out. Things changed, however with the release of their second album, The Circus, whose lead single, Sometimes peaked at number 2 and became their highest peaking UK single. Success still alluded them in the US, but that changed with their third album, The Innocents, with 2 top 20 singles; Chains Of Love and A Little Respect. They would crack the top 20 only one more time in America with 1987’s Always, but had continued success in native Britain, scoring a top 10 hit as late as 2005 with Breathe (also a hit on the US Dance Club Charts).
Now: Erasure are about to release their fourteenth! studio album, called Tomorrow’s World, which is their first album in 4 years. To coincide with this release, Erasure will embark on a US tour and bop2pop already has his ticket and will be sure to tell you all about it! First single, When I Start To Break It All Down is typical Erasure. What do you think?
Then: The year was 1982. Johnny Are You Queer, a hilarious, tongue planted firmly in cheek anthem for disappointed faghags throughout the world and the gays who loved them, would propel Josie Cotton to novelty status and one semi-hit wonder. It also contained, in bop2pop’s humble opinion, the best album sleeve of all time. Things were looking very bright for Josie Cotton as she performed the single in the 80s Cheese-tastic film, Valley Girl. But just as quickly as her rise to cult fame was, so too was her decent into obscurity. A quick look on Wikipedia mentions a cameo in a low budget horror film in the mid 1980s alongside Adam Ant?! but nothing else.
Now: Josie Cotton has reappeared out of seemingly nowhere with a new single, See The New Hong Kong, which finds Josie, again, tongue planted firmly in cheek, this time, hoping to win over an entire city. Check it out.