Dec 10

ADAMSKI – “Killer”

Popular73 comments • 6,914 views

#645, 12th May 1990

From Yazoo onwards, collaborations between electronic musicians and soul singers have followed certain protocols. The singer is the star, the living presence on the right-hand side of that “featuring”: the producer is the mood-setter, the collective. Human vs robot, emotion vs rhythm, soul vs body, warm vs cold, blah vs blah. It’s not that the resulting records have been bad – smoky voices and harsh synths do sound terrific together – but the rules of engagement were laid down early and hard.

“Killer” shows us a different approach. What was startling about the record in 1990 – and what lets it keep its charge now – is that the music simply refuses to get out of Seal’s way. In fact, if you only knew Seal from the rolling smoothness of his latterday career “Killer” would come as a real shock: here he is, making his debut not as a highfalutin’ loverman but as an isolated paranoid battling through a tangle of wires and buzz. Adamski is truly as much the star here, putting together a tense, crisp piece of house music which doesn’t actually need his singer to be memorable (though surely needed him to reach number one).

The nature of the game becomes apparent very quickly: when Seal sings “Will you give, if we cry?” and as he emphasises “give” the keyboards suddenly flare angrily up, a surge of 303 squelch almost drowning him out. From then on the track matches him blow-for-blow for a while, backing him up with the snap of martial hi-hats then upstaging him with harsh acid textures. Both sides have moments where they relax – that house piano break (which dates the record badly, since it fits the song far less well than it did “Vogue”) and Seal’s widescreen musings about racism and sons of future kings. He’s never been the most comprehensible lyricist – but on “Killer” it doesn’t matter at all, since the meaning and meat of the song is all in the co-dependent struggle between voice and sound.



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  1. 31
    punctum on 15 Dec 2010 #

    #28: Maximum respect to Leisure Process, featuring Glasgow’s own Ross Middleton and non-Glaswegian Gary Barnacle and produced by Martin Rushent. Really should have been huge (and they were in the Scottish charts but that’s another story) – four faultless singles and then that was it, which presumably explains why their work has not resurfaced on CD. “Love Cascade,” “A Way You’ll Never Be” (featuring Level 42!), “Cashflow” and “Anxiety” – all great.

    I bought the Chromium Dioxide tape of Fabrique by Fashion with its Bonus Side of 12-Inch Mixes and still have it. I liked “Streetplayer.”

    Yep, Stupid Babies and Earcom 3, still in the house.

    The other dud Pidda Powell picks I remember included Space Monkey, Robert Marlowe and Matt Fretton, as well as the ones who actually managed to scrape together a hit or two, i.e. JoBoxers, Jimmy the Hoover and The TRUTH.

  2. 32
    Billy Smart on 15 Dec 2010 #

    Re #28: Philip Jap turned up on two editions of The David Essex Showcase;

    THE DAVID ESSEX SHOWCASE: with Dale Hargreaves, Flamingos, White and Torch, Mari Wilson, Rikki Patrick, Arrival, Philip Jap, Captain J. J. Waller (1982)

    THE DAVID ESSEX SHOWCASE: with UK Players, Juan Martin, Richard Digance, Hazon Aneka, Philip Jap (1982)

  3. 33
    Chelovek na lune on 15 Dec 2010 #

    Gary Barancle was in Leisure Process? Thanks for that info, Punctum. I had no idea. I just recall his name, a few years later on, as the quintessential session musician saxophonist, backing up a lot of SAW acts in their period of transition from more artistry to mere hackery (I think he even got a credit on Big Fun and Sonia’s colloborative single: which, to damn with faint praise, was far from being the worst thing that Big Fun were associated with), as well as featuring on a fair bit of “sophsti-pop” from the last few years of the decade.

  4. 34
    Tom on 15 Dec 2010 #

    Just to interrupt with a quick shout out to Popular commenters who don’t look at the main site – yr participation in this would be marvellous.


  5. 35
    Lex on 15 Dec 2010 #

    Going back to this – which I don’t remember from the time but picked up, possibly via osmosis, at some point in the early ’90s – it seems a lot more muscular and a lot less dated than its contemporaries. Possibly because it takes itself very seriously – not just Seal’s vocals but the doomy, unsmiling music. I like that about it: it’s not the kind of record that’ll get wheeled out as an example of “wacky early ’90s rave”. I’d give it a 9.

    I’ve never heard Adamski’s other stuff, but Seal’s solo follow-up to this, “Crazy”, seems like a natural next step – less clubby, but its electronic decoration and kind of amazing breakdown provide the same excellent space-blues feeling that Billy identifies at #6. I also really love “Kiss From A Rose”!

    This is where what must surely be an almost unparalleled run of quality at No 1 comes to an end :(

  6. 36
    lex on 15 Dec 2010 #

    Also fucking hell I’ve FINALLY realised that this is the perfect comparison point for Kelis’s latest album.

  7. 37
    MikeMCSG on 15 Dec 2010 #

    #31 Robert Marlowe’s “Claudette” was a good single ,a synth-pop romance placed in the French resistance movement but perhaps a bit dated for 1984.

  8. 38
    weej on 15 Dec 2010 #

    Re #35 – By my reckoning the run has one to go… but this may turn out to be a view not shared by many, we’ll just have to see.

  9. 39
    lonepilgrim on 15 Dec 2010 #

    when I was studying at the University of London in the mid 80s Peter Powell showed up to the Students Union to to add his seal of approval to a band called Rouen. His presence only served to confirm them as worthy and anonymous.

  10. 40
    LondonLee on 15 Dec 2010 #

    Not to get too bogged down in labels but is this really a House record? I’ve never thought about it as such because you can’t really dance to it.

    Whatever it is though it’s great and think 8 is a little stingy. Great pair of number ones but I’d give this the edge over ‘Vogue’

  11. 41
    thefatgit on 15 Dec 2010 #

    “Killer” is such a desolate record, and for very personal reasons, I cannot comment further. Next…

  12. 42
    Steve Mannion on 15 Dec 2010 #

    LondonLee I don’t think it’s too far away from Colonel Abrams ‘Trapped’ in the House overlap stakes but yeah I don’t imagine this was working in clubs as well as numerous other charting dance hits at the time. But it’s roughly the same tempo as your Dirty Cashes and ‘Naked In The Rains so surely not a complete danceloor dealbreaker.

  13. 43
    Rory on 15 Dec 2010 #

    @3: to be fair to Mike Oldfield (and I am nothing if not fair to Mike Oldfield), “Moonlight Shadow” was like any other Oldfield vocals-based track, treating the singer as an interchangeable instrument (an early version had Hazel O’Connor singing), and given his singles’ previous chart performance, there was no inkling that this one would do so well. Once it became a hit, though, the incongruity and injustice of the credit became obvious; he gave Maggie Reilly her due by crediting her vocals on the sleeve of 1984’s “To France“. By the late 1980s he was using the “featuring” credit that emerged (or reemerged) around this time (for example, “Islands” featuring Bonnie Tyler). Who knows, perhaps its wider use was partly inspired by the example of “Moonlight Shadow”?

    As for “Killer”, I missed it at the time; as far as I can tell it didn’t do anything on the Australian charts. My introduction to Seal was my brother’s later infatuation with “Crazy”. “Killer” sounds interesting enough, but to be honest my initial “sorry, I wasn’t there” response is around a 5.

  14. 44
    LondonLee on 15 Dec 2010 #

    It’s probably too edgy and jerky (and emotional) to be what became known as a ‘chill out’ record but there are a lot of the spacey and trippy elements of that stuff bubbling under here.

  15. 45
    lex on 15 Dec 2010 #

    You can definitely dance to this – just because it’s kind of bleak doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work in a club (cf 00s Kompakt material…)

  16. 46
    Billy on 15 Dec 2010 #

    Is it sacrelidge to say I really like the ATB cover of this ten years later? Stays very similar to the original except whacks a massive 4/4 beat over the whole thing, which is what I always felt the original lacked.

    Ten years on from that, I was sure we’d see another cover version to continue the pattern (we’ve had ‘Dirty Cash’, ‘Infinity’, ‘Dub Be Good To Me’ and ‘Ice Ice Baby’ all covered in the last year or so), but I guess the chance has been missed. Would probably be a RedOne production with Tinie Tempah rapping over the middle or something…

  17. 47
    Martin Skidmore on 17 Dec 2010 #

    I remember a good cover of X-Ray Spex’s ‘Identity’ by Adamski, possibly with someone else, as Diskord Datkord.

    Also, for fans of Tom, can I recommend his first contribution to my site about comics? http://comiczine-fa.com/reviews/1500-2000ad-covers/

  18. 48
    Lena on 17 Dec 2010 #

    This is absolutely like the Kelis album in sound and feel; and the video, however dated, does have people dancing in it!

    I’d just like to say in advance that the next one up is a favorite of mine, and that the great run of #1s isn’t over just yet…

  19. 49
    Erithian on 17 Dec 2010 #

    This one truly is a cracker – great vocal, and Adamski’s never running out of sonic ideas that make it a classic of the genre (precisely because there isn’t a massive 4/4 beat over it). In Which Decade last May I gave it the nod over Blondie’s “Call Me” because of “the way it creates its own world and demands your attention”, and I’ll stand by that. I’d forgotten about the house piano break – your views are diametrically opposed to mine re house piano, and those few seconds do take the track down a peg or two.

  20. 50
    Chelovek na lune on 18 Dec 2010 #

    Oh, as inevitably these threads go…digging thru the memories of long-forgotten parts of my former record collection. I seem to recall (maybe 1988/89ish?) didn’t another project (it may have been Diskord Datkord, it may have been something else) of Adamski release a cover version of….was it Bowie’s “Heroes”? (perhaps it was a B-side). IIRC it was pretty bloody dire actually and in no way led me, at least, to expect the shower of (all too short-lived) genius and wonder that was “Killer”. If anyone has any ideas what I’m talking about, I’d be grateful, not least for confirmation that my memory is not playing tricks on me. (Apologies that this is very much less worthy than my last such detour, to Morgan McVey and thus to Buffalo Stance)

  21. 51
    Chelovek na lune on 18 Dec 2010 #

    Bad etiquette to answer my own question, I know, but a quick bit of digging round says that it was “Rebel Rebel”, not “Heroes”, and the name it was released under was The Legion of Dynamik Diskord. Not worth seeking out IMHO, though…

  22. 52
    DietMondrian on 20 Dec 2010 #

    I’ve just listened to the two versions back to back and Seal’s remake plods somewhat by comparison. And as others have said, it just lacks something – that appealing acid squelch, for one. Far too polite and muted. Eight for the original, five for the remake.

  23. 53
    swanstep on 21 Dec 2010 #

    @dietmondrian. Yeah, after listening some more I think you’re right, so I hereby retract my previous support for the remake.

  24. 54
    Billy Smart on 24 Dec 2010 #

    Light Entertainment Watch: Just the one TV appearance listed for Adamski;

    THE WORD: with Bill Dean, Adamski, The Farm, Shanya Schulma (1990)

  25. 55
    Billy Smart on 27 Dec 2010 #

    MMWatch: Dave Jennings, March 31 1990;

    “This is more like it. ‘Killer’ isn’t the brutish thing its title suggests. It’s a medium-paced dance track built around a rock-solid baseline, laced with eerie synthetics and topped with the plainitive voice of guest singer Seal – who sounds firmly in the grip of lovely desolation. ‘Killer’ fits more than enough to fit on the dancefloor, but it might also suit your mood if you have to go home alone once the club has closed. Emotive and effective.”

    Jennings awarded single of the week to Blush by The Hummingbirds. Also reviewed that week;

    Happy Mondays – Step On
    E-Zee Posse & MC Kinky – Everything Starts With An E
    Jesus Jones – Real Real Real
    Public Enemy – 911 Is A Joke
    The House Of Love – The Beatles & The Stones
    The Shamen – Pro-Gen
    Technotronic – This Beat Is Technotronic
    I Ludicrous – Preposterous Tales In The Life Of Ken MacKenzie

  26. 56
    Chelovek na lune on 27 Dec 2010 #

    “Blush” by the Hummingbirds. Loved it, still do. Better than “Killer”? Not sure. They are of such different genres that any straight comparison between the two seems meaningless.

  27. 57
    wichita lineman on 5 Jan 2011 #

    Smash Hits watch:

    May 16-29 1990, cover stars Beats International: ‘THEY’RE JAM HOT!!! (whatever THAT’S supposed to mean)’. Miranda Sawyer’s joint Singles of the Fortnight are Beats International’s Won’t Talk About It and Touch Of Soul’s We Got The Love (“Black Box crossed with a nursery school”, apparently).

  28. 58
    wichita lineman on 26 Jan 2011 #

    NOW! watch:

    The dance-heavy and very enjoyable Now! 17, Disc 2, ran like this:

    1. Technotronic feat. MC Eric : “This Beat Is Technotronic”
    2. Lonnie Gordon : “Happenin’ All over Again”
    3. 49ers : “Don’t You Love Me”
    4. Jimmy Somerville : “Read My Lips (Enough Is Enough)”
    5. Cliff Richard : “Stronger Than That”
    6. Jam Tronik : “Another Day in Paradise”
    7. JT & The Big Family : “Moments in Soul”
    8. Mantronix feat. Wondress : “Got to Have Your Love”
    9. Bizz Nizz : “Don’t Miss the Partyline”
    10. E-Zee Possee featuring MC Kinky : “Everything Starts With an ‘e'”
    11. D Mob featuring Nuff Juice : “Put Your Hands Together”
    12. Adamski feat. Seal : “Killer”
    13. Orbital : “Chime”
    14. Tongue ‘n’ Cheek : “Tomorrow”
    15. Electribe 101 : “Talking with Myself”
    16. Sydney Youngblood : “I’d Rather Go Blind”

  29. 59
    Steve Mannion on 26 Jan 2011 #

    Cliff mixing it up with the ravers

  30. 60
    Paulito on 1 Feb 2011 #

    @58 Some good tunes there, but only two that have stood the test of time: “Killer” (as discussed) and – by far the pick of the bunch – the indescribably wonderful “Got to Have Your Love”…they don’t make ’em like that any more *sighs*

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