Raise the Pressure

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By the time Electronic's long-delayed second album appeared in 1996, the zeitgeist in Britain had completely shifted from its members' parent bands to a new generation of groups, with Oasis, who shared management with Sumner and Marr's project, standing forth out of a horde of newer Brit-pop acts. Electronic itself chose not to try and compete, following its own low-key path while working with a variety of guest musicians, including returning singer Denise Johnson. The intriguing surprise came courtesy of an additional keyboardist -- none other than Kraftwerk veteran Karl Bartos, who also co-wrote nearly half the release with Sumner and Marr. In the same way that the group's debut promised more than it delivered, though, Raise the Pressure -- theoretically a dream collaboration between key members of three groundbreaking bands -- ends up being more pleasant than necessary. About the only concession to changing times from the band is a more open embrace of gentle pop/rock as opposed to specifically dance-based compositions -- if the debut was a little more New Order, many times on Raise the Pressure things are a touch more Smiths. But it's more accurate to say it's a bit more Lightning Seeds, frankly -- polite, chiming, keyboard-touched but not much more. There's little of the superior takes on rough, modern rock styles both New Order and the Smiths are known for (and certainly no Kraftwerk per se outside of some brisk synth work here and there). What more, specifically dance/synth efforts appear to follow in the lead of the first album's quietly epic romance, such as the charging, acid-meets-strings "Dark Angel" and the slightly gospel-touched "Second Nature," which all sound much better than the more rock-focused songs. A pity there's not more of that on Raise the Pressure, but such is life.

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