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Music Review: Andy Bell – Non-Stop

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Andy Bell – best known as the voice and flamboyant front man of long-running pop group Erasure – returns to the dance floor with his second solo album, appropriately titled Non-Stop. Joining him for this installment is producer Pascal Gabriel, who also shares co-writing credits with Bell on all but one of the set's ten tracks. Where Bell's previous outing, Electric Blue, seemed to aim for a more grand and expansive scope, Non-Stop intentionally reigns itself in to short and sweet bits of club candy.

Perhaps the best word to describe this record in relation to Bell's solo debut is "direct." The track list is shorter, the running time more brief, but there isn't a single lull to be found. The pace is kept brisk and avoids some of the regressive moments in Electric Blue (such as the bland diva-off of "Delicious," and an eye-rollingly weak attempt at a radio ballad in "Fantasy").

But there are also the more subtle production touches, where Gabriel eschews a "more is better" approach in favor of a more minimal and slickly modern sound, where punch is added through rich analogue synths and unrepentantly pastiche drum sounds. The style is certainly born out of disco, but here things are modernized with some progressive beats and trace elements of tech-house, all polished for pop with a cool and almost German-like precision.

"Running Out" starts things off on the right foot, with percussive synths blending into a heavy beat that precedes a very catchy chorus. That formula is more or less repeated throughout the album, but it never gets old, as some ridiculously catchy songs pile one after the other. Highlights include "Subject/Object", the serious thump of title track "Non-Stop", and the glam-disco of "DHDQ" (which is perhaps the most addictive song about a drag queen you're likely to hear).

Even the slower tracks don't veer too far from the spirit of the set, with "Slow Release" offering a much more dark and sexy alternative to a ballad, while the album's closer "Honey If You Love Him (That's All That Matters)" – a collaboration with Jane's Addiction's Perry Farrell – is a slightly left of center mid-tempo track that works surprisingly well. Throughout, Bell's voice is as strong and emotive as we've heard in a while. Part of this may be due to the fact that his vocal gymnastics are kept to a minimum, and for the most part Gabriel keeps him within the sweet spot of his range. But regardless, he sells every single track.

In practically every way, Non-Stop is a more confident and polished dance record than its predecessor. The song selection is more lean and energized, and delivers a string of memorable cuts without ever letting the energy wain. With this record, Bell has proven his relevance to club culture beyond just amped-up remixes of his primary group's hits. (Insert a bad pun here using the album title to describe how much play some of these tracks will receive.)

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