Today’s POP RESCUE from an uncertain fate, is the 1982 debut album Upstairs At Eric’s by electronic duo Yazoo. Will this album be a new high, or does it belong in the attic? Here’s our review…
Side One opens with second single Don’t Go. The synths on this are fat and delicious from the first moment you hear them in the intro. It’s a wonderfully catchy 1980’s masterpiece – Vince Clarke’s (Depeche Mode, Erasure) synths sit alongside Alison Moyet’s vocals with enough space around each to form some kind of musical ballet. The song hit #3 in the UK charts in the summer of 1982, sadly missing the top spot, and is a perfect opener for the album.
Too Pieces follows this with gurgling and bleeping synths ushering us in. It’s a softer sounding track and Moyet is once again given plenty of space to shine – and she does – her vocal power and range in the lead and backing vocals makes this simple song sound great.
Next it’s Bad Connection, and the synths sound wonderful again in their simplicity. We’re treated to some wonderfully harmonious vocal harmonies from Alison, and this allows us to have a vocally more interesting track. The lyrics are a nice slice of ‘this last made sense in the 1980’s’ – an example of a song that would not get remade now, given the subsequent invention of mobile phones, emails, and text messages. Landlines last stand!
That leads on to I Before E Except After C, which I’m sure sounded pretty exciting and fresh in 1982, but here in 2022 it sounds like just a long-winded piece of art as it consists solely of pieces of dialogue spoken by a number of people, including ‘Eric’s Mum’, that collectively do not form any coherent sentences. It just goes on for too long.
Alison’s vocals lead us into Midnight and she’s swiftly joined by synths and backing vocals. She’s soon in full swing and commands this song with great ease over a gentle and soft synth line. It’s a nice track but not particularly catchy.
This side closes with In My Room, which begins with some more vocal samples, including a very protracted Lord’s Prayer over a simple beat, but thankfully switches to Moyet’s vocals and a snare drum to lead it away from this distraction. It’s a plodder and slowly heads to the end of this side.
Side Two bursts opens with the lead single and wonderful 80’s hit musical masterpiece Only You. Sadly the song peaked at #2 in the UK, and again, it was completely robbed of its rightful number one. The bass line is wonderful, and with the flittering and delicate synths over the top it really just shines so bright. Alison’s vocals and the melody are perfect in this – a wonderful song that’s almost a lullaby.
Goodbye 70s is next, and this really does sound like Yazoo are pleased to be in the next decade. The opening reminds me briefly of Vince’s future hit Who Needs Love (Like That) (with Erasure) but it steps aside just enough to make it unique. This song gallops along with the vocals taking a lower register. It works pretty well, although it’s somewhat annoyed.
That’s followed by Tuesday, and a low synth note hums in before a flock of synths lift the track a little. Alison arrives to lift the mood a little in what feels like a somewhat downbeat track. Thankfully it wasn’t Monday.
Then we’re on to Winter Kills and if you wanted downbeat, then this definitely ticks the box as a piano hits the low notes like a funeral procession. This is expertly complimented by Alison’s soft vocals and reflective lyrics. It has a haunting yet dreamy feel to it, and it’s a wonderful contrast to most of what we’ve heard so far.
Then, in contrast again, the album closes with Bring Your Love Down (Didn’t I), which feels almost like a disco track. It injects a blast of energy and catchiness at the far end of the album, loaded with catchy lyrics, great vocals, and a those disco signature handclaps. The album ends on no better place than this high point.
Over all, this album is a bit of a mixture.
It’s hard to find any fault in hits Only You – which absolutely glows here, and Don’t Go, but Bring Your Love Down (Didn’t I) and Winter Kills are also fantastic listens even if they are somewhat polar in style.
The I Before E Except After C track is disinteresting, and In My Room feels slightly more alive, but elsewhere throughout the album you’re hearing some wonderful synths, vocals, and songwriting that it’s hard to pick out much that’s faltered.
Moyet and Clarke have given us some wonderfully different sounds, and this Yazoo album shows how great they can be when those styles are working together.
- POP RESCUE 2022 REVIEW RATING: 4 / 5
- 1982 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #2, certified Platinum.
- POP RESCUE COST: £4.99 from a Discogs.com seller.