From the Hip
Having dabbled with synth-driven pop and electro elements for a couple of singles released after Key of Dreams, the Cassidy brothers decided to run further from their past and immerse themselves completely in technology while making a concerted attempt to be less dour. With the smart addition of Larry's wife Jenny Ross on vocals and keyboards (going by Cassidy could have meant confusion with the Partridge Family), the group recorded their third and best album with Bernard Sumner. Packed with a surprising amount of emotional range and sounds into eight songs, From the Hip succeeds in transporting the group out of the endlessly glum corner they had painted themselves into with a mix of the hopeful, the melancholy, the synthetic, and the organic. "Looking from the Hilltop" is the obvious highlight, a moody electro-pop classic sung by Ross that became a favorite at several New York clubs. "Reflection," a proto-twee pop song (also sung by Ross), slackens the tension of "Hilltop" with buoyant synth-percussion and a bright melody. The biggest gulf between songs exists with "Program for Light" and "Desert"; the former is a hyper-speed electro instrumental that races along until being interrupted by a thunderclap that ushers in the latter, which uses little more than echo-heavy piano, acoustic guitar, and hardly-sung vocals. The remaining songs at their worst serve the whole and act as bridges to make the album flow deceptively well. (Some ears may have trouble with Larry Cassidy's adjustment from moaning post-punk vocals to pop vocals -- he's no Martin Fry.) The flow could take several plays to become apparent, but it's time well spent. Les Temps Modernes' 1998 reissue nearly doubles the original version's running time with seven bonus tracks, including two additional mixes each of "Looking from a Hilltop," "Beating Heart," and the zip-bang electro revision of Always Now's "Dirty Disco," along with the 12" version of "Back to Wonder." The mixes of "Hilltop" don't add all that much value. "Beating Heart" (one of the finest New Order songs not written or recorded by New Order) and "Back to Wonder" (fragile, glistening pop) are excellent, however, and From the Hip in its initial format would have been much stronger with their presence.