Yello "STELLA" (Vertigo, 1985)

If you think about modern popular music from Switzerland, and you not happen to be from there, you would probably think for quite a while. But a good guess would be that the band Yello would pop up into your mind first. Though Dieter Meier and Boris Blank do not consider themselves as a band, more an art project. Blank, who originally founded Yello with Carlos Perón in the late 70s, mainly produces the music while Meier writes most of the lyrics, sings a little (or whatever you call his deep voiced dadaesque recitations) and directs the videos. Their early albums contained a pretty raw mixture of crazy sounds, rhythms and Meier vocals, but by the end of the 80s they managed to release some popular, yet unique tracks like "Oh yeah" and "The Race", that were used in multiple films and advertisements. "Stella" marks a point where Yello were probably most successful in combining art and pop: roughness and experiments on one side and catchy melodies and recognizable riffs on the other.

The 90s saw not much greatness by Yello, but the interesting techno-styled remix album "Hands on Yello", that featured artists like Carl Craig, Westbam and Jam & Spoon (who produced a great ten minute remix of "You gotta say yes..."). Their so far last release was the 2003 "The Eye". The first six albums were re-released and remastered in 2005.

Note that I reviewed the remastered version that, besides obviosly sounding better, offers four bonus tracks the original album did not have.

Desire One of their most intense songs. Though it is pretty untypical for their work, with almost no experiments, very straight forward and atmospheric, with unadorned beats, clear guitars and floating strings. This one just begged to be on one of the Miami Vice episodes. Has beautiful lyrics as well. Simple, but effective, the perfect companion through the night. 9.0

Vicious Games Sporty disco beat and female vocals. There is also a western guitar and Yello-typical brass hits. Could very well have been a James Bond theme song. Adds a little more crazyness (sorry, I just hate that word with an 'i') to the mix than its predecessor, like women's screams and percussion solos. Still, everything seems a little too polished while not being as strong as "Desire". 7.0

Oh Yeah What is left to say about that one? Deep pitched Meier vocals plus human hihats and Au-Aus. Basically a straight forward beat packed with ideas ever so new, very percussive, creative and so catchy everone wanted it as their background noise, from Ferris to Simpsons to commercials. Even gets a little melancholic from time to time with some widescreen strings. A classic. 8.5

Desert Inn True 80s percussions accompanied by a guitar and just a light synthie bass. Plus some slightly infantile Ooah-Ooos. The chorus tries, but does nou quite get the atmosphere of a "Desire". I like the end though. 5.5

Stalakdrama Orchestral showdown of the synthetic strings. Purely instrumental and very reverbed (yes, that word least now), with many layers and hopefully not meant too seriously. Soundtrack of a horror movie called "The synthesizers of death". 7.0

Koladi-ola This time Mr. Blank sings self-confidently and slightly high-pitched. Dirty synthie rock that sometimes gets stuck in its own eagerness (but that probably is intended). In the end the different approach ends up like almost everything yello: in a pool of as many sound gimmicks as possible. Still, I can`t find the point in that one. 6.5

Domingo Hammering synthesizer beat equipped with Dieter's sermon pushes dramatic electronic body strings. Interesting lyrics that I take the freedom to interpret as "The Believe is God". Nice wake up call. 8.0

Sometimes (Dr. Hirsch) Though having been reduced of the toughness a little bit, this song still works in principle like the last one. Pushy bass drums and theatrical chords give the vocals some kind of magic, but it is overdone a little. The lyrics express what I think the problem with Yello songs sometimes is: The attempt to be emotional, yet to be too cold and/ or playful to get there. 6.0

Let Me Cry Nice scream here dragged throughout the song. Other than that this piece is too much snare drum. I miss the inspiration. Or better, they seemed to miss it. Has something of that really bad post 80s synthie pop by wave bands who think they can be Depeche Mode. 4.5

Ciel Ouvert I first heard that track as the 'Hands On Yello' version by Jens, and what really striked me was a dramatic string sound that seemed to be the work of multiple stacked synthesizers. Yet in this original this sound is just one of many, but still it stands out as something massive. This is like a dimension of lost sounds and ideas. Sometimes with a little too much reverb for my taste, but therefore mysterious and sentimental. 8.0

Angel No 80s Funk, and the second time with Rush Winters on the mic. I definitely miss some soft touch here for this kind of music; it is very loud and shrill and aggressive, but not in a good way. They would master that more elegantly on later records eventually. Especially one very high rhythmic sample slightly left is a bit annoying. 6.0

Bonus tracks: Blue Nabou anticipates "The Race", but without its hit riffs. Therefore you get Padmé Amidala playing the jazz piano and some oriental-electronical sounds. And just those sounds also flank the Indian Summer version of Oh Yeah to make this track more complex and dense than the 7" version. The 12" mix of Desire should actually have been the original album version, as it unfolds the theme more effectively (however the beats are just a little dull, probably to work better in the clubs). The 12" mix of Vicious Games however doesn`t bring much novelty, apart from some new lyrics. Unrated

[Artwork] Yello front covers are a topic of its own, but without getting deeper into it let me just say that the "Stella" cover belongs to the better ones. It contains actually a quite interesting painting of a women's face. The booklet shares some pictures of the Desire video shoot and some interesting bits to read, including the lyrics. Some of the artwork has obviously been redone for the 2005 remastered edition, but without knowing the original content I hope for the better. 7.5

Conclusion Well, 'interesting' is always a term that describes a Yello record correctly. "Stella" features two of the most known Yello hits with "Desire" and "Oh Yeah", but apart from that, it is difficult to summarize. I hate to use the word 'art', but at least you could compare this record with an art gallery: You'll find some nice pieces, some ugly ones, some that make you think for a while, some that could inspire you. If you really devote yourself to it, you will gain something from it in the end and your time will not be wasted. Overall Rating: 6.96

October 2007