MILAN, Italy -- The pop duo Electronic may boast two bona fide
stars -- former Smiths guitar Wunderkind Johnny Marr and New Order singer
Bernard Sumner -- but don't call them a supergroup.
Though a former collaborator likened them to a "Blind Faith of the '90s,"
a reference to the short-lived Eric Clapton/Stevie Winwood band of 1969,
Marr and Sumner downplay the comparison -- even if their upcoming third
album, Twisted Tenderness, does happen to include a cover of
Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home."
"OK, we're famous and we're in a group. Does that make us a supergroup?
We went on for years denying we were in [one], but then we ended up making
a cover of Blind Faith," Sumner said with a laugh.
"[But] we didn't know the song before we made the album," Sumner added.
A major difference between Electronic and all-star outfits of the past
-- such one-album wonders as Souther-Hillman-Furay, Kooper-Bloomfield-Stills
and the aforementioned Blind Faith -- is that the Marr-Sumner dyad proves
to have some longevity.
Eight years ago Electronic released their self-titled debut disc. In the
interim they released a second album, Raise the Pressure (1996),
which included the single "Forbidden City" (RealAudio excerpt).
The new album -- along with its single "Vivid" -- continues the duo's
tradition of mixing the dance-groove elements and the jangly guitar pop
that Sumner and Marr, respectively, purveyed in their previous bands.
Guitarist Johnny Marr, 35, first caught the attention of rock fans and
critics in the mid-'80s, when he co-headed '80s rock superstars the
Smiths with lyricist/singer Morrissey and gave the group its colorful,
intricate, guitar-based sound. After the band split in 1987, a few days
prior to the release of its last studio album, Strangeways Here We
Come, Morrissey embarked on a solo career.
Marr became a much-in-demand session player who worked with Brit-folk
singer Billy Bragg, new-wave pop acts Talking Heads and the Pretenders,
Singer/guitarist Bernard Sumner came to prominence in the late '70s as
one of four members of Joy Division, the influential, gloom-infused
new-wave band whose brief run ended when their charismatic frontman, Ian
Curtis, hanged himself in 1980. Sumner and the other surviving bandmates
reconvened under the name New Order, ultimately becoming one of the most
successful UK dance-rock acts of the '80s.
After a long pause due to internal conflicts, the group re-formed last
December for series of UK dates. According to Sumner, New Order will
soon enter the studio to begin work on their first album since 1993's
The longevity of Electronic, given its side-project status, is a source
of some surprise even to its own members. "When you are in a band, and
you hang around all the time, you have the idea that you can go on for
five or six records," Marr said. "But in Electronic it's different,
because it's like an experiment. We never thought it was going to be one
album or it was gonna be three."
Both Marr and Sumner attribute their successful collaboration to a
combination of friendship and musical compatibility. "Our previous groups
sounded very different," Marr said. "[But] as musicians [we find that]
the things that count are the same. And it's that music has to be emotive,
it has to have some passion and it has to be honest. It can't be a pose.
This has made it work.
"[But] as important as music and our career are to us, it's not as
important as being a good person and having a good friendship."
Despite some live TV appearances in support of the new record, the duo
won't be touring, due to the high costs of recruiting and rehearsing a
But to fans of Marr's and Sumner's previous bands, and of the current
duo, the new album should satisfy the need for new noise.
"Of course I knew their original bands, and I know Electronic as well,
which is a good [mixture] of their previous experiences," explained
Marco Benni, 26, who recently spotted the two in a Milan bar. "It's good
to see them back with a new record."
"It's like climbing a mountain," Marr said of the process of making an
album. "When you get on top, then you see other mountains to climb.
Personally I feel very grateful every time a record is finished. And
that goes to everything in my career."