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Album Review

One thing Black Box Recorder has going for them is that one needn't "get" them in order to enjoy the records they make. They work on many levels. On the cover of Passionoia, bikini-clad singer Sarah Nixey blissfully reclines poolside on a sunny day with a drink in hand. A lifeless body floats in that pool. For those who don't realize it's a reference to a party gone wrong that was thrown by English television celebrity Michael Barrymore, it still alludes to what can be expected from the record: Increasingly ornate arrangements as a significant move toward making contemporary dance-pop, but, as always, a fly is in the ointment. Just the same, one needn't consider whether Nixey is being personal or ironic when she confesses her love for Wham!'s other half in "Andrew Ridgley"; on a purely musical level, it's a heavenly pop song akin to Saint Etienne, though lyrical elements that follow make it more like that group's wicked stepsister. John Moore and Luke Haines continue to write the group's songs with themes about childhood, English culture, and observations of the mundane aspects of adult life — and their knives haven't dulled in the least. (Come to think about it, they're often not writing about mundane aspects; they just have a way of making them seem that way, which comes across doubly so, since the songs are filtered through Nixey's iciness.) Black Box Recorder have developed a great deal across their three studio albums. If England Made Me was their stark guitar record and The Facts of Life was their frozen electronic-pop record, then Passionoia is their full-blown dance-pop album — full of buoyant arrangements, meaty rhythms, and glitter-specked choruses. It's just as full-bodied and upfront as "Child Psychology" is sparse and distant. A greater combination of accessibility and subversion would be nearly impossible to imagine.


Formed: 1998 in London, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Black Box Recorder included Auteurs main man Luke Haines, former Jesus and Mary Chain member John Moore, and vocalist Sarah Nixey. Like the Auteurs, Black Box Recorder's songs commented on the state of English affairs, both social and personal, often using character sketches that exposed the less-than-pleasant with sharp frankness and simplicity. Domesticity and childhood themes often ran through their albums. Coming together in 1998 as Haines kept his primary vehicle operable, the trio introduced...
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Passionoia, Black Box Recorder
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