"You and I will never change. Though we're different, we'll remain the same.
Love's devoid of reason anyway."
Love's devoid of reason anyway."
On his unexpected solo debut, Homosapien, Pete Shelley largely abandoned any trace of the guitar-heavy punk-pop of his previous band, the Buzzcocks, instead building the album's sound out of a unique combination of electronic instruments and acoustic 12-string guitar. While this stemmed partly from his desire to break all ties with his former band, it was also a re-visitation of his original interest in Electronic music. However, on his second LP, XL1, Shelley decided to re-introduce electric guitar into the mix, and the result is a wonderfully edgy and claustrophobic electronic-rock hybrid that manages to build on the strengths of its predecessor while moving into even darker emotional territory. From the beginning of his career as a songwriter, Shelley had nurtured a lyrical preoccupation with the idea of unbridgeable emotional isolation, such as his classic Buzzcocks composition, "Ever Fallen in Love": "You spurn my natural emotions / You make me feel like dirt / And I'm hurt / And if I start a commotion / I run the risk of losing you / And that's worse." While there is still a glimmer of faith (albeit a masochistic one) in the possibility of love in the preceding lyrics, on XL1, the emotional climate is one of cold pessimism. For example, on the infectiously dark "Telephone Operator," perhaps the pinnacle of Shelley's solo career, Shelley introduces heavily distorted guitar bursts into an arrangement that borrows heavily from Kraut-Rockers such as Kraftwerk; lyrically, the song sets the stage for the entire album, as it establishes the theme of isolation on several levels in the form of a lonely drunk trying to seduce a disembodied (and emotionally disconnected) voice on the phone. Shelley also explores the sense of isolation within relationships as on "You Know Better Than This," which contrasts his ironic, almost tongue-in-cheek vocals and faceless synth-dominated arrangement with lyrics alternating between professions of devotion and bitter musings about the inevitability of emotional stagnation. It would be three years before Shelley would issue his third (and final) solo album, Heaven & the Sea, which dials down the dance rhythms significantly and suffers greatly for it. It seems Shelley is going for something more reflective on this album, and while songs such as "On Your Own" and "Life Without Reason" have their charms, overall, the album ends up sounding a little too glossy (thanks to Stephen Hague's production). As a result, Heaven & the Sea has not aged nearly as well as Shelley's earlier solo albums.
XL1 (2005 Remastered and Expanded Edition)
1. Telephone Operator (3:18)
2. If You Ask Me I (Won't Say No) (4:23)
3. What Was Heaven? (5:07)
4. You Know Better Than I Know (4:58)
5. Twilight (3:15)
6. (Millions of People) No One Like You (4:07)
7. Many a Time (6:44)
8. I Just Wanna Touch (3:04)
9. You and I (3:02)
10. XL1 (3:29)
11. Telephone Operator/Many a Time (Dub) (5:46)
12. If You Ask Me/No One Like You (Dub) (13:13)
Heaven & the Sea
1. Waiting for Love (3:42)
2. On Your Own (3:51)
3. They're Coming for You (4:14)
4. I Surrender (4:10)
5. Life Without Reason (4:35)
6. Need a Minit (2:55)
7. Never Again (3:42)
8. My Dreams (4:30)
9. Blue Eyes (4:26)
10. You Can't Take That Away (4:26)
11. No Moon... (5:13)