Melody Maker | Album | 27 October 1990
The choice of "A Beat Called Love", a clinical pop song, as the follow-up to the epic ambient ebb and flow of "Floatation" was quite a disappointment. It was hard to believe the tracks were by the same group. Having been hailed as one of the most ingenious acts in a long time, The Grid suddenly seemed to be just another dance group looking for an easy route to the charts. "Electric Head" gives Richard Norris and David Ball an opportunity to straighten out the confusion over the conflicting ideas championed by the two singles and reveal their true intentions.
Mind you, all that's initially clear is that nothing on this album is remotely similar to either "A Beat Called Love" or "Floatation", both of which appear in a remixed form. There's an amazing variety of material here. "Strange Electric Sunset" could almost have been written by Ball when he was still in partnership with Marc Almond, while the more physical electro of "Islamatron" and "Doctor Celine" edge closer to Front 242. "This Must Be Heaven", which flaunts a fascination for disco orchestras and is pushed along by an absurdly simple synth bassline, is pure Pet Shop Boys and "Driving Instructor" takes its cue from Yello.
Each of the tracks feature lots of clever twists and turns deep in the mix that only become apparent with greater familiarity. There's a quick blast of horns and a suddenly spiralling keyboard melody, the twang of a slide guitar and a manic heavy metal solo courtesy of Cobalt Stargazer from Zodiac Mindwarp's Love Reaction. They're the sort of intricacies which, once picked up on, shift songs in unexpected directions. Some say The Grid have a weird sense of humour and if the zzzzzip sound that follows the words "On passing your driving test, don’t go mad" is like something out of a Roadrunner cartoon, the single bleep from "Floatation" which pops into "Strange Electric Sunset" is totally disorientating.
Ambient keyboards flow throughout and numerous short pieces of music are threaded between the main tracks. Many sound like steals from the "Space" LP and their hypnotic qualities are expanded on "One Giant Step" and "Are You Receiving?". "One Giant Step" includes samples from Apollo 8's flight transmission, one astronaut talking about illuminated particles floating beside the capsule, another reading the opening lines of the Bible. Both of these cuts and the faster "Intergalactica", the words of which are mostly in Spanish, add a new dimension to the idea of trance dance.
Although much of "Electric Head" has considerable commercial appeal, The Grid have avoided repeating the mistake of "A Beat Called Love" – "Doctor Celine" is the album's only other weak spot – and their strong pop sensibility is given a lasting beauty by a constant switch of emphasis, a graceful slide into some other world. That Norris and Ball engineer this within the context of an individual dance tune is quite a feat, one which even Mr Drummond and Mr Cauty of The KLF haven’t really dared to try. The Grid are elevating pop. Forget all the fears and enjoy the trip.