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Sunday, April 25, 1999 Published at 08:39 GMT 09:39 UK

Entertainment: New Music Releases

CD Review: Electronic

Electronic: Twisted Tenderness (Parlophone)

By the BBC's Chris Charles

By rights, this record should never have been made.

When Johnny Marr and Bernard Sumner first joined forces some 10 years ago, the air of expectation was high, but feet were firmly on the ground.

After all, this was a mere sideshow, a distraction from New Order and The The, a new toy the pair could play with until they got bored which would be tossed in the back of the cupboard after the first album, never to see the light of day again.

Yet here we are approaching the millennium and not only are Electronic still with us, they are churning out (albeit slowly) their best stuff since the glorious Get The Message graced the higher echelons of the charts back in 1991.

[ image: Marr dominates the Electronic sound]
Marr dominates the Electronic sound
Whereas in the past, the sound has been three parts New Order, one part Smiths, this time it is the other way round - and that cannot be a bad thing.

Take Like No Other, for instance. This could have been written with Morrissey in mind - a guitar-fuelled pop song dealing with "suburban hell" - that would have seen the quiffed one in his element.

Even the lyrics bear some of the sorrowful trademarks that put Mozzer out on his own in the 80s, although the subtle humour is not captured quite so well.

In Prodigal Son, Bernard muses: "You may be a star in your own mind, but you're greatly deluded in mine".

And when he later asks the dreaded question "is it over?", you would swear Marr had sneaked his old mucker into the studio to do the business. In reality, of course, there's more chance of Liam Gallagher releasing a duet with Damon Albarn.

[ image: Album a happy marriage of styles]
Album a happy marriage of styles
What you do notice about Twisted Tenderness is the compatibility of the two artists. Marr and Sumner appear totally at ease with what they are doing together and the result is an album bursting with 'real songs', rather than the experimental dabbles that were sometimes left wanting.

Most of the 11 tracks break the five-minute barrier, which is initially a bit too much for the wandering mind to deal with. But when you've stuck it on a few times, the time factor becomes less important as each song comfortably drifts into the next.

Make It Happen is a storming opener filled with infectious beats and funky guitars which has echoes of Depeche Mode and the Chili Peppers, the afore-mentioned Prodigal son draws on Indian influences and the dreamy Can't Find My Way Home sees Marr at his string-tickling best.

Current single Vivid, with its manic mouth organ, has Sumner suggesting his partner should be packed off to a psychoanalyst, while the outstanding title track owes more than a little to St Etienne's Only Love Can Break Your Heart.

Electronic do not need to borrow off anyone else, though. The recruitment of Dove's Jimmy Goodwin and Black Grape's Jed Lynch has nicely filled in the gaps on bass and drums and the decision to call in producer Arthur Baker from the cold has paid handsome dividends.

You do not get many supergroups to the pound these days, but this dynamic duo are worth their weight in gold. If they really are still treating Electronic as a distraction, what on earth would they come up with if they decided to get serious?

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