“Connoisseurs of deluxe dance-pop, seductive electro anthems and gold-plated disco grooves – lend me your ears.
Now prepare to have them blown away by Andy Bell’s magnificent new album, Non-Stop. Because this is a lavish, lustrous, sumptuous collection of exquisite dancefloor confessionals from one of the most acclaimed and beloved singers in British pop.
Although Andy’s long-running partnership with Vince Clarke in Erasure (recipients of Best British Group at The Brit Awards) remains very much a going concern – since the release of 1986’s debut, Wonderland the duo have gone on to sell over 20 million albums, 5 of them hitting #1 and had 17 Top 10 UK singles – the singer’s second solo album provides a liberating platform for his more clubby, nocturnal, disco-glam side. He has even purposely changed his vocal register and style for much of Non-Stop, putting clear blue water between his soulfully electronic solo voice and his gleaming, poppy Erasure work.
“I just needed to have a breather and see what else is going on,” Andy explains. “Spread my wings, live my life a little. This is like a different character that people don’t know me as so much. I wouldn’t say I’m a club kid, but I do love hearing remixes and club tunes. The album is quite robotic, quite tongue in cheek, lots of synths and glamorous disco. I can’t get Madonna out of my head, and I sort of feel like: if she can do that why can’t I?”
Non-Stop was co-produced and co-written by Andy Bell and Pascal Gabriel, the Belgian-born studio all-rounder whose glittering CV of collaborations includes S’Express, Ladyhawke, New Order, Debbie Harry, Kylie and Little Boots.
Andy already knew Pascal, who had previously remixed Erasure, “We had one writing session at Pascal’s house in France, then one writing session at the Strongroom in London, and we just clicked,” Andy recalls. “He is Cancerian as well, the same as Vince. Their characteristics are quite similar, both very thorough and hard working.”
The songs on Non-Stop are timeless, sexy and impeccably classy affairs, from the breathless robo-disco rush of Running Out to the moody, broody, sultry power ballads Subject/Object and Slow Release. Meanwhile, Say What You Want and Call On Me are both sublime synth-pop epics. “Call On Me is going to be the next single, which I’m really pleased about,” Andy says “It’s a really simple song, and the backing vocal riff was inspired by Diana Ross singing Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. It’s really about my friends in New York, they’re from the East Village. When I see them we just go and hang out in some of the more grimy bars.”
The sound of Non-Stop reflects Andy’s infatuation with classic 1980’s dance-pop and post-punk icons like Ladytron, M and Claudia Bruken. Most of the album consists of celebratory, life-affirming lyrics, but there are moments of doubt and darkness here too. The shrill, spiky, gnarly electronica of Touch is Andy’s angry reaction to the demeaning C-list celebrity freakshow of reality television.
“Touch is probably the most punk-ish thing I’ve written,” Andy says. “It is just about being offered reality shows all the time. It’s almost like they’re forcing you to make a spectacle of yourself.”
The album also reveals more of Andy’s nightclubbing, bright-white-clubbing, late-night electro-trash side than anything Erasure have yet released. With its driving groove and huskily seductive vocals, former single Will You Be There was born to be a hands-in-the-air Ibiza anthem. Much like the hedonistic machine-beat throbber Non-Stop – a song, as Andy explains, all about “being fucked up on the dancefloor.”
But in terms of decadent glamour and neon-lit cool, nothing else on the album comes close to DHDQ aka Debbie Harry Drag Queen a high-camp homage to the empress of New Wave New York and her armies of imitators.
“I was on the True Colors tour with Debbie and she’s lovely,” Andy says. “She loves the drag queens as well, in New York. To me, nobody’s ever copied her because they can’t, she’s the queen of all of them.
The one song Andy did not write on Non-Stop is the closing number, Honey If You Love Him, a pulsing nu-disco groove wedded to an agony-aunt lyric about romantic heartbreak penned by Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction fame. Alt-rock legend Farrell is a huge fan of Andy’s voice and suggested recording a duet together.
“Perry sang that song for a friend of his, a fashion designer who fell out with this guy,” Andy explains. “Perry is so cool, a lovely man, and quite camp.”
Classy and camp, soulful and sumptuous, Non-Stop is a deluxe dance-pop album from a master of the game. Prepare to have your ears kissed, your heart stirred and your mind blown.”