Review: Yazoo – Four Pieces/Three Pieces
A new boxset – on either four vinyl discs or three CDs – remasters Yazoo’s two classic studio albums and adds BBC radio sessions and remixes
Yazoo’s genesis was rooted in good fortune from the start. When a Basildon singer, Alison Moyet, quit her punk band the Screamin’ Ab Dabs in 1982, she placed a small ad in Melody Maker looking for new musicians to work with. The sole person to respond was no stranger.
Vince Clarke had just abruptly left his own Basildon group, Depeche Mode, after writing virtually all of their debut album, Speak & Spell, and was already known to Moyet from the local gig scene. When the two got together, they found that opposites did not just attract – they thrived.
The studio geek and the larger-than-life blues-soul singer proved to be a match made not just in Essex, but in heaven. Their debut album, 1982’s Upstairs At Eric’s, soared to No.2 in the UK. Its follow-up the following year, You And Me Both, went one better.
Those two hardy LPs are reissued now both as Three Pieces (3CDs) and Four Pieces (4LPs), together with remixes and original John Peel and David Jensen sessions. They trace a two-year trajectory of near-unbroken success – yet the story could have been very different.
Despite his acrimonious departure, Clarke offered the first song he wrote after leaving Depeche Mode, Only You, to his old group. When they sniffily rejected it, he turned to Moyet to record a demo of it. The result was a revelation.
Clarke had got into the habit of referring to his jaunty, upbeat synth doodles for Depeche as ‘U.P. – Ultrapop’. Where they could at times sound tinny and lightweight, like jingles, Moyet gave them balls, heft and soul. The lovelorn Only You powered its way up the singles chart to No.2.
It set the tone for a heady two years in which Yazoo came as close as anyone to marrying the synth revolution to ye olde-fashioned bluesy love songs: Situation and Don’t Go could, and did, appeal to fans of both Aretha Franklin and The Human League. Upstairs At Eric’s’ truly mighty Bring Your Love Down (Didn’t I) was New Pop Motown.
After two years, of course, Clarke got cold feet again and backed out, going on to form the rather more long-lasting Erasure. Moyet went on to inevitable lung-bursting solo success. Yet for a too-brief early 80s moment in time, Yazoo were a nugget of piquant pop perfection.
Written by Ian Gittins. Released on Mute.