Touch Yello

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It makes perfect sense that Yello have lasted longer and aged better than any other synth pop outfit. When the Swiss group started out in 1979, the bandmembers were already older and wiser than most of their peers -- singer Dieter Meier was already in his mid-thirties back then, and Touch Yello finds him a sultry, smoky-voiced sexagenarian. He has effectively become the Leonard Cohen of European electro-pop, with a touch of Paolo Conte's Continental class and maybe a dash of Serge Gainsbourg's genteel sleaze, and the comely female guest vocals that pop up throughout the album make for a perfect Gainsbourg/Jane Birkin kind of contrast. On what is only Yello's second album of the last ten years, the duo of Meier and synth wizard Boris Blank has taken a somewhat schizophrenic route; roughly half of Touch Yello is based around the kind of pulsating, electronic dance-pop grooves that have been the group's strength for three decades. On the other half, they venture too far into moody, downtempo pieces full of chillout atmospheres and bathtub jazz. By the end, one wishes the contributions of German trumpeter Till Bronner would have been left in trash can of Blank's laptop, as his parts take things entirely too close to smooth jazz territory. Thankfully, the funkier, more dance-oriented cuts where Meier's deep, dusky voice is right up front pretty much save the day. Listening to tracks like the disco-drenched "Part Love," where Meier comes across like some fever-dream combination of Barry White and the guy from Trio, it's hard to imagine why anyone would want to mess with such a winning formula. Still, when you've been around as long as Yello have, you should be allowed to take a few detours, even if some of them wind up leading you down the occasional blind alley.

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