Marsheaux have been long overdue their fourth album for some time now, and, well, this blog isn’t about that.
It recently came to my attention that my favourite Greek synth-pop duo (uh, my only Greek synth-pop duo) were unleashing a compilation of rare and lost tracks. Now, the word was this would only get sold at gigs — since Marsheaux have only ever touched London once or twice, I naturally despaired that I would never be able to get my filthy completist paws on this collection.
Then I got an e-mail from the record company…
The Slow Boat From Greece II
Because I’d previously ordered an album straight from Undo Records (can’t exactly expect UK high-street stores to stock the good stuff, let alone the imported good stuff), I was on their mailing list. A missive came round stating that, due to overwhelming demand, a limited number of copies of this compilation would be put up for sale over them intertubes. For us poor non-Greek sods who couldn’t see them in concert (cough cough come to Scotlaaaaand).
Of course I didn’t think twice.
That was at the beginning of June; it is now August. But as the old saying goes, “better late than never” — and, well, it did end up arriving on my birthday. Poetic justice, if nothing else, and well worth the wait.
Lost and Found
So there’s a mix of tracks from all through Marsheaux’s glittering career. Oddities from promotional CDs, rejected album tracks, non-album tracks, the odd remix or alternate version…
Now and Never, for example, is one of the first tracks they ever recorded for their first album. A haunting synth melody gently blooping over a drum machine, they “never got around to adding vocals” — but I don’t think it needs vocals. The synth, with its tinge of sadness, somehow reminds me of the credits music for the Master System version of Sonic 2. I would say it’s a shame this didn’t make it onto E-bay Queen, but it actually has a very different feel to the album tracks so probably wouldn’t have fitted. I’m certainly glad it’s managed to find its way in here.
Then there are things like Bizarre Love Duo, which was only previously released as a vinyl stand-alone (I had to make do with an MP3); Sadly, which appeared on the Electronically Yours (Vol 1) synth-tastic compilation; and How Does It Feel?, which apparently came from a remix EP at the time of their last album.
Really, it’s like a greatest hits compilation of rarities and extras instead of singles. Every era is represented, and represented well — there isn’t a single track on here that makes you think “I understand why that was sidelined”. They’re all top class, much like the phenomenal suites of demo versions on the deluxe editions of A-ha’s Hunting High and Low and Scoundrel Days.
Some stand-alone cover versions of classic tracks have ended up on here. Their take on the Human League’s Empire State Human has been floating around as a free MP3 for a long time, but since it wasn’t on a proper disc I kept losing it. It’s an excellently fun song in the first place and Marsheaux’s cover is no different.
Also on here is a sweeping synth-string cover of Billy Idol’s Eyes Without a Face. It’s perfectly suited to Marsheaux’s sultry and sensuous vocals.
Plus you get their rather lovely cover of OMD’s album classic She’s Leaving. Previously released as a duet with OMD’s lead singer Andy McCluskey, we have it here as a Marsheaux-only number.
The Difficult Fourth Album
And finally, for good measure, there are a couple of rejected tracks from their up-coming fourth album. I have to say — if these are the rejects, the album is going to be an absolute stormer.
Inside, previously known as Thirteen/True, is a nice middle-tempo tune built of thick synths that Marsheaux posted on their blog a little while ago. In style and form it’s in the same vein as much that they’ve done before, but here you can really appreciate how the arrangmements have got so much more richness and depth than some of their earlier tracks. Maturation, like fine cheese and quality wine, has made Marsheaux even better.
While Do You Feel? is a Giorgio Moroder-esque disco classic, complete with pulsing baseline and arpeggiated twiddles. What more can one ask for?
Nyah nyah nyah you’ll probably never get your hands on this collection! A wonderful traipse from their beginning to the present day, it’s both a beautiful retrospective and a delightful look forward to the next album.
Which, I must say, I am very much looking forward to.