MoonTunes Classic Reviews: Upstairs At Eric’s/Yaz
By Brad Moon, Contributing Writer, wired.com
Upstairs At Eric’s
“To our credit to the thirty faces you created, to your subscription for the million copies of 1980, I’m glad that we don’t hear you any more, I’m tired of fighting in your fashion war. Goodbye Seventies, Goodbye Seventies.”
It’s pretty much a given that every generation expends a great deal of energy and effort in dismissing the musical decades that preceded them. I’m not sure how far back that holds true- did big band aficionados in the 1930s thumb their noses at the flappers from the 1920s? But dissing the musical styles you are rebelling against has been a constant trend through the rock and roll era. The opening quote, for example, is from Goodbye Seventies, a musical kiss-off to a decade by British synth-dance duo, Yaz. It took less than ten years before another generation of musicians was sending the same message of dismissal toward the artists of the 80s. But there’s another funny truism in the rock and roll era and the entire pop culture milieu for that matter: what’s old is eventually new again. “Old school” synth-dance music from the 80s is fashionable again, influencing pop musicians and a new generation of electronic dance music outfits.
Yaz (Yazoo in England) was an interesting group, a duo made up of the unlikely combination of Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet. While the names may not mean much, Clarke was a founding member of synth-pop pioneers Depeche Mode. Moyet was a blues singer looking to start up a new R&B project. The combination proved incredibly successful and the blending of Clarke’s keyboards and electronics with Moyet’s powerful vocals was a hit.
1982’s Upstairs At Eric’s was the debut release for Yaz. Opening track Don’t Go, was a hit single and a showcase for Moyet’s throaty voice. A series of mediocre songs follow- experimental bits where one can often detect a lot of early Depeche Mode in the keyboards. But at the midway point the album gains steam again. Only You is a simple but effective love song that proved another hit. Goodbye Seventies again recalls Depeche Mode, both in arrangement and the slightly menacing undertone, but it’s a more viable song than the previous few. And then their big American hit, Situation. An extended dance groove with a big beat, Situation parlayed Moyet’s vocals and Clarke’s funky synths to a number one spot on US dance charts.
Yaz lasted only two albums before Clarke once again got the urge to move on. Given the limited material, there is really little compelling reason to buy Upstairs at Eric’s if you don’t already own it- instead, buy the Yaz best of CD and you’ll only be missing the filler.