Advertising: Synth you've been gone ...

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The Independent Online

Sweet dreams are made of this. The longest nights, the gashest clothes, the naffest cocktails. Billy's/Blitz/Wag country. No one under 40 has been there. And, whatever they tell you, no one will again. You can do the tour, see Taboo, even read Steve Strange's evasive autobiography, but there's no way any sane person could seriously get inside that aesthetic again.

Are Friends "Electric"? What a darling old word it is, for a darling old sound. A swelling questy extended eeyore sound produced by a synthesiser noisebox straight out the ark. And thought up by a completely ridiculous person, a man so universally derided by that snobby little metropolitan crowd of 1979 that you just had to champion him. Gary Numan really was original to boil down all that German rubbish, all that silly stuff from Brian Eno, to make an anthem so gorgeous.

True Faith, that's what it was at the time. An underlying excitement about electronic sounds that links, oh, New Order and Herbie Hancock ("Rockit" was about as un-black as you could get). All the elements and expressions of electro, the great themes and marginal echoes of the electronic family tree of roughly 1978 to 1984, feature in Electric, the new advertised double CD. There's obvious filler in there; maybe the idea doesn't warrant a double CD, maybe they couldn't get a lot of heartland material. No Bowie for instance. I'm not sure I'd have included "Video killed the Radio Star" by Buggles, and it takes a creative leap to establish the link between Soft Cell's marvellous "Tainted Love" and lairy Euro-nonsense like "Rock Me Amadeus".

The commercial is simplicity itself, and it gets you in the first five seconds with "Sweet Dreams" and the lovely period image of a green graphic equaliser with its bar chart moving to the music like pianola keys above the "Electric" in matching neon. You know it's for you - it's the aniseed, the bat squeak, the irresistible charcoal biscuit of history. I'm down at the megastore like a sleepwalker before I know it.

"Trust us" they say in small slow white letters, "this album has every classic track". The very best of Electronic and New Wave, from Culture Club to Ultravox, is what they promise. Alas it's not 100 per cent true and, anyway, it's all the stuff of these Skool Disco Nights now.

Peter@sru.co.uk

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