ANDY BELL – TORSTEN THE BAREBACK SAINT

7/10

Andy Bell - Torsten The Bareback Saint

Well well, well, what a busy boy our Andy has been of late, first collaborating with US House producer Dave Audé back in April on the single “Aftermath (Here we go)” then recording with dance duo Shelter on their wonderfully titled disco album “iPop”,released in May, to working on the forthcoming studio album alongside his better known musical other half ,that is the legendary Synth genius Vince Clarke on what will be Erasures 16th Studio release “The Violet Flame” which is due to touch down to earth on 22nd September 2014. All the while preparing for a US and UK Erasure tour starting in September in Miami and finishing on New Years Eve in NYC. Phew, just as I thought I’d got my breath back from delivering Mr Bells hectic work schedule to the musical world I find that there is even more to cram into that bulging diary of his by way of two British festival dates in July and August and a theatrical performance at the Edinburgh International Fringe festival from August 5th to August 17th and a one night only performance in London on July 26th .

Theatrical performance! one might curiously think, but sure every one of Andy Bells stage performances borders on the theatrical as we are well accustomed, our beloved effervescent front man twirling and pouting at his adoring fans when he sets foot on a stage bellowing Erasures string of hits dating back to the mid 80’s, but no this is Andy Bell with a difference, this is not that larger than life exploding glitter ball of pop brilliance, this is Andy Bell taking the lead roll in a conceptual Theatrical stage performance by Barney Ashton where he assumes the role of “Torsten” in “Torsten The Bareback Saint” who is described as a “semi-immortal polysexual, cursed to love many and get close to none, as his age -defying nature condemns him to watch all his friends and lovers grow old and die before him”. Basically in lay man’s terms if that hasn’t already confused you enough, “Torsten” is best described as the Achillies of Hedonism and Debauchery ! Unfortunately Torsten’s immortality has caught up with him at the not so ripe old age of 42 and what we have be given is a 22 track album of songs from the stage production that recreate moments in time from Torstens life through his adolescence to maturity.

The album starts with a softly padded intro track “Freshly” which transports into the equally as gentle sounding “Teacher Teacher” , a song from a teens perspective about the choices faced upon leaving school and growing up. “Free” ups the tempo slightly with some subtle casio style electronics in the background and then “Star for Life” starts us on our showbiz journey with plucked violin backed verses and a West End musical style chorus that has Bell singing “Karaoke that’s all right , But I wanna be a Star for life” in an overtly Theatrical manner. Its becoming evident so far that the writing style of this album is considerably different to what our leading man is recognised for and it is apparent that he is stepping out of the comfort zone when “Bingo hall Baby” goes from Bugsy Malone to a bit Chas and Dave in parts, although the vocal is as strong as you would expect. “Fountain of Youth” is the longest track on the album at 7 minutes and this in particular showcases the brilliance of Andy Bells voice throwing that spine tingling feeling of emotion at the listener that only a few can accomplish with the beautiful soft vocal he possesses.

Moving past a couple of stage performance type tracks in “World without End” and “V For…”, with some rather broad minded content, we get to the first single from the album “I Don’t Like”. The piano and light stringed accompaniment to go along with the melancholic vocals make this one of the stand out tracks on the album and you genuinely start to feel a bit sorry for Torsten when Bell sings “She sticks up two fingers and she tells me where to go, I don’t like” and “the bitching texts sent to my mobile phone, I don’t like”. All sympathy is soon recovered though with the rather ostentatious “Mobile” where he comically addresses another partner by singing “Your Ringing the Fuck out of my mobile” and basically telling the damned individual that the relationship is over, all backed to piano, ringing sounds and a few other nifty little computerised noises. The mood drops again in “The Boy from the Sauna” with the piano accompaniment backed by a brooding electronic pulse before introducing subtle strings and a touch of choral backing.

“Weston-Super-Mare” is another charming piano based number preceding “(We waited for) The Circus” which tells the story of a Circus coming to Torstens town during the Thatcherite era and all the excitement that comes with it, complete with Circus backing music (Billy Smart mind, not Erasure). Next up are “Good Things” and “People Come and People Go” the latter which tells another theatrical sounding tale and the rather fine Anti-Torch Song “Dont Call Me Up”. “Tell me the story of your poverty” is another slow composition sharing memories of Torstens debauchery laden life, before the album takes an interesting turn with “This Gay Thing Isnt Working”, as it fools the listener into thinking we have another crestfallen tale from Torsten who decides being gay hasn’t worked out until the chorus gazumps the piano verse with a touch of Eurodisco electronics and Beats before reverting back to being the downcast tale it started as. Next up is the string laden “Aflame” intelligently backed by the pitter patter of light drum strokes making its way towards Torstens twilight years with a reminiscing tale in “Mr Average” shadowed with twinkling keys and an Olivia Newton John sounding melody.

“Is It Not Enough” starts with a monastic style vocal which develops into a high pitched Somerville-esque ballad which again exhibits the choral ability that Bell possesses. The grand finale of Torstens adventure is the beautifully crafted but somberly titled “ As I Prepare To take My Life”. Layered with synth harp melody and eerie backing pads it finishes the album in a downbeat but eloquent way as Torsten prepares to depart from his semi immortal existence singing “We are Better parted” to the listener.

This album will definitely divide the audience with the sheer diversity of the music that is on board. Call it Theatre, call it Cabaret or just call it want you want because there is something in there for everyone but what there is no mistaking is the quality of the vocal that is showcased. Andy Bell is renowned for his choirboy voice and the vocal ranges he can master and “Torsten” just cements this into the listeners head. Indeed some of the lyrical content throughout is overtly sexual and in places brutal which wouldn’t make listening with your Gran a great idea, and to some fans I am sure will shock, as our Andy as always had a “Good Boy” persona in the Pop World but all things considered this album is aligned with a theatrical stage performance and as a soundtrack tells a very entertaining tale. This little number will make a great souvenir to any of those attending the Edinburgh Fringe in August just don’t stick it on in the car when the kids are around.

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