I first came upon Vic Twenty when they supported Erasure at Leicester’s De Montford Hall in 2003 and I was prepared to be disappointed. I’d seen some stinkers of support acts, and their billing as a synth duo, supporting a synth duo, and named after an early Commodore home computer, didn’t exactly fill me with confidence.
Of course, I was wrong. The duo of Angela Penhaligon (Piney Gir) and Adrian Morris were brilliant, both had a lot of stage presence (rare for a synth duo!), and their short songs were utterly in thrall to the earliest synthpop, while also having a fun, worldly edge that hinted at politics, contemporary culture and the troubling issues of the day. They also used a Casio VL-Tone. I’d bought one of the pocket synths a few years earlier for £5, and a synth musician later encouraged me to sell it based on prevailing eBay price. I barely broke even when I actually sold it. Not bitter at all.
To coincide with this Erasure support slot, Mute founder Daniel Miller – who’d just sold his label to EMI – set up a new independent imprint under the awful moniker Credible Sexy Units to release Vic Twenty’s ‘Text Message’ single. It would prove to be CSU’s only release. Piney Gir left to pursue a solo career, and Adrian Morris set about recording a Vic Twenty album.
I got to know Adrian a little around this time and he told me that the working title for the album was ‘Music For Adverts’, then ‘How Art Thou Rocker?’, and finally ‘Electrostalinist’. The album contained some songs familiar from the 2013 tour like the fizzy ‘8-Bit Hit’ and also some new tracks, including the perfectly cynical single ‘I Sold Your Heart On eBay’. Hopefully he made more than I did flogging my Casio.
‘Electrostalinist’ was exactly what I needed in 2005; the songs were wonderfully pop, almost exclusively electronic, and it deserved to be a success. Sadly, it wasn’t, and it probably didn’t help that Daniel Miller himself described it as “too 1981”.
What I came to like about the album was that I didn’t have to think about it too much, and this shouldn’t be read as a criticism: I found it to be the perfect soundtrack for my daily commute to London in the wake of having been stuck underground during the 7/7 bombings, one unusual short-term consequence of which was that I was suddenly unable to focus on music.
A few years later, I asked Adrian if he would allow me to use one of the unreleased Vic Twenty tracks on a compilation I was assembling. It felt like a fitting way to give his frustratingly overlooked music some exposure, as well as offering me a small way of saying thanks for an album that helped me through a period of dread and anxiety.