Upstairs At Eric's

Yaz

Sire, 1982

http://www.yazooinfo.com

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/08/2009

With her robust voice, Alison Moyet burst onto the pop scene in 1982 with the help of her newfound partner Vince Clarke, formerly of Depeche Mode. Known simply as Yaz (or Yazoo in their native Britain), this duo was intent on doing something totally unique -- bringing the burgeoning new wave genre to the dance floor. Their debut Upstairs At Eric’s contains two singles that fulfill that promise spectacularly, “Don’t Go” and “Situation,” both of which became instant #1 club hits.

The danceable material fits in alongside other obscure downbeat fare, like the eerie “Winter Kills” and the soulful “Midnight.” For his part, Vince Clarke also continues in the similar perky vein of Depeche’s “Just Can’t Get Enough” with “Bad Connection,” which seems to point to what would eventually become another musical partnership with Andy Bell (for Erasure, four years later). Though Yaz itself would only last a mere two years, nbtc__dv_250 Upstairs At Eric’s finds Vince and Alison in top creative form. The big college hit ballad “Only You” is yet another high point that glistens in its understated beauty. Two other tracks that seem to stand out from a dance floor perspective are the impossibly sleek ode to the disco era “Goodbye Seventies” and the killer closing cut “Didn’t I Bring Your Love Down.”

Taken as a whole, from its eleven now-classic songs to its deconstructed mannequin cover, this album has since earned legendary critical status. Only Dare by the Human League rivals it as being one of the first albums of its kind to be commercially successful on both sides of the Atlantic. As a duo, Yaz were in a league of their own, even if it was for an all-too-brief shining moment.

Unfortunately, Vince and Alison would part company over creative differences after their second album You And Me Both was released, though the two of them couldn’t have been more different from a purely visual standpoint - Alison was the big girl singer, while Vince was the skinny and retiring keyboardist hiding in the background. It’s a shame that music this good couldn’t be enough to keep these two distinct individuals together, but alas, it just wasn’t meant to be.

Perhaps taking a tip from Prince, Yaz included much of The Lord’s Prayer in another one of my favorites “In My Room.” Religious blasphemy was all the rage back in those rebellious punk years, owing a huge debt of gratitude to the Sex Pistols’ same edgy, devil may care attitude. Such bold statements proved an act had the chops and the gumption to compete in an increasingly crowded industry, with the “next big thing” coming out virtually every month. The early ‘80s was such an exciting, colorful and unpredictable time and Yaz helped to play a small, yet critical role in making it that way.

Rating: A

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© 2009 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sire, and is used for informational purposes only.