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Reviews

 

The Word April 2007 www.wordmagazine.co.uk

I'm not entirely sure why it is, but I tend to like bands who clearly couldn't exist without the Pet Shop Boys (Junior Boys, Lorraine, um, Trademark) without actually being that keen on the originals. This undoubtedly highlights some yawning great flaw in my personality, but Raise the Stakes isn't going to be the record to end it. For a start there are the songs, Toe The Line and Come To Love are great, but Stuck In A Rut sounds like it's been recorded straight from a mangled Boots C60 they found in the back of their mum's Austin Maxi. And they're so deadpan I fear for the health of their kitchen implements. How Times Change appears to have been put together on a home computer of the Sinclair stripe. It's a minute long. Self Pity lasts 90 seconds. Hello, are you my new favorite band?

Rob Fitzpatrick

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Popjustice Thurdsay 25th January 2007 www.popjustice.com

It is electro, it is pop

A couple of years ago there was this brilliant song called 'Sine Love' by a trio calling themselves Trademark. It was a blubtastic electroballad. Well, the band are back with some new clothes and a new album called 'Raise The Stakes'. It's great. We would particularly like to draw your attention to 'Come To Love', a stupendously-chorused pop stormer which sounds like the Pet Shop Boys and OMD knocking back Smirnoff Ices down the DIY electropop disco.

You can hear 'Come To Love' (and 'Sine Love', and some other stuff) in full on their MySpace. More info on their proper website.

So there you go.

 

 

Gay Times Issue 343 April 2007 www.gaytimes.co.uk

After their (largely ignored) Trademark Want More, it wasn't difficult to raise the stakes. But they've done it, pushing tempos, beats and buttons. They've neatly synthesised Fischerspooner and the Postal Service without loosing their whiff of British bedroom band. They're still a pub-Rock Petshop Boys and, before you know it, there will be a 'Nu-Romantics' revolution. Apart from some misguided epic orchestration - more Wham than Wagner - this is a fine Electro-Pop album by lovable, roguish underdogs. But it probably won't be bothering Tesco's shelves any time soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fly April 2007 www.the-fly.co.uk

While electropop has spent a tenacious three decades grabbing at the souls and feet of a yo-yoing audience, it's never managed to grab much of rock 'n' roll's supply of cool. Fortuitously, Trademark understand this and gave up trying to be hip years ago. Their total lack of self-conciousness allows 'Raise The Stakes' to skate across every conceivable synth-based genre with wit and confidence. 'Come To Love' betrays their filtered electro-disco bent, 'Stuck In A Rut' Straddles the New Order/Kylie divide, and elsewhere everyone from Stephin Merritt to PSB gets the nod. As standard-bearers, they'll do just fine.

Charlie Ivens

 

 

Guardian Unlimited Friday 9th March 2007 www.guardian.co.uk

Hometown: Oxford.

The lineup: Oliver Horton (synths, laptop, vocals), Stuart Meads (synths, laptop, backing vocals), Paul Soulsby (synths, laptop, FX).

The background: Trademark aren't like Ladytron or Adult. or one of those other new-fangled electroclash combos who offer a modern take on synthpop, paying homage to it but essentially moving the music forward. In fact, listen to Trademark and you'd think you were back in 1981, when scarily coiffed futurists roamed the streets and the icy plink-plonk of Messrs Yamaha and Casio ruled the waves.Actually, the Trademark boys did spend 1981 sporting funny haircuts and making squelching noises, but that's probably because Stuart was two years old, while his cousin Oli was a foetus. Still, they developed fast: by 1988, they'd formed a "band" called Technobeat and penned an album's worth of tunes called Stereo.

Six years later, the pair, who obviously hadn't even heard of the Pet Shop Boys, became Trademark. Over the next four years, they wrote five albums, although only close friends and family have heard them (and even they had to be heavily sedated). The 1998 one, Obscure, was fairly appositely (not to mention PSB-ishly) titled: apparently, six copies were sold via the Internet, one to a girl in Italy. Or maybe it was a geezer. Hard to tell with Italian names.

By the turn of the century, Trademark stopped being a synth duo like Yazoo and became an electro trio like Yello, drafting in Soulsby. Their next album, Audiologue, sold a few more copies than its predecessors and contained early versions of current Trademark staples. Highlights of the ensuing half-decade include a Pop CD of the Week in the Times for 2004's Trademark Want More, and a nationwide tour supporting The Human League. Throughout 2005 and 2006, Trademark took their melodic electronic pop plus blank Oakey-does-Iggy basso profundo vocals on the road and worked on what will be their first widely promoted album, Raise The Stakes. Start, er, feeling fascination, or something.

The buzz: "Come To Love is a stupendously-chorused pop stormer which sounds like the Pet Shop Boys and OMD knocking back Smirnoff Ices down the DIY electropop disco."

The truth: They're calling it "the epitome of 21st Century pop"; problem is, The Human League et al were doing 21st Century pop 26 years ago, and this doesn't really take it to the next level - say, the 22nd Century.

Most likely to: Get the thumbs up from Pop Justice and Pop Bitch.

Least likely to: Have a Number 1 with a song called Don't You Want My Tainted Love.

File next to: The Human League, Pet Shop Boys, The Beloved, Fierce Girl.

What to buy: The single Come To Love is released by Truck Records on April 16, with the album Raise The Stakes to follow on April 23.

Paul Lester

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sunday Times 4th July 2004 www.timesonline.co.uk

Pop CD of the week

The glory days of chart-topping electro-pop — with, at their summit, such perfect practitioners as Visage, Soft Cell, Blancmange, early Depeche Mode, Human League, OMD, Erasure and the Pet Shop Boys — have long since passed. Yet this hasn’t stopped modern exemplars of the dark art, such as Ladytron and, in America, the Postal Service, from attempting to breathe new life into the format. The latest band to negotiate the wafer-thin line between innovation and archival pastiche are this Oxford three-piece, who, on the basis of Trademark Want More, have got the balance right. They move the form forwards, but their devotion to its hallmarks — the unlikely but successful coexistence of chilly disengagement and emotional veracity; aloof vocals that recall Neil Tennant and Marc Almond; a uniform (in their case, lab coats) that echoes the music’s surface uniformity; a faith in portentous synth bass lines and drum machines — betrays the respect and scholarship of zealots. On tracks as hook-filled, deceptively detached and sonically billowing as Sine Love, Stay Professional and Square Wave Anger, Trademark arrive, fully formed, at the forefront of a still thrilling genre. This remarkable album, on the tiny but dependably great Truck label, deserves a huge audience. Four stars

Dan Cairns

 

 

Tasty July 2004 www.tastyfanzine.org.uk

Trademark are adamant that they make pop music, and on the evidence of ‘Want More’, I’m not gonna argue with them. There seems to be quite a lot of good music coming out of Oxford at the moment, but Trademark have set themselves apart somewhat by pushing out a brand of early neo-80s synth pop. First track ‘My Life in Stereo’ is far too muscular and Mode-esque for my liking, but second one, ‘Sine Love’ shimmers like a great New Order track, say, like off ‘Power, Corruption & Lies’. ‘Square Wave Anger’ is industrial-lite, and so it goes throughout the rest of ‘Want More’. However, underpinning everything is a definite effort to make great big bloody POP! music. Not for them a piano-led dirge, or even anything approaching an epic. Nope, Trademark want it hard, fast and sweet. And so should you. Oh, and they do the best line in badges. You must get one.

Sam Metcalf

 

 

 

 

 

Vanity Project July 2004 www.geocities.com/vanityprojectfanzine

As you might expect from a Truck outfit, Trademark hail from Oxford, but as you might not expect, Trademark’s schtick involves shiny harmonic synths wrapped in a prickable electronica bubble. They have that mid-90’s sprightly synth-pop charm, such as was offered up by Dweeb amongst others back then, that only youth can bring. However, somewhere between what Qhixldekx and Trust No One are trying to do down in Portsmouth, they also move seamlessly to a Pet Shop Boys-like maturity, a post-millennial Ladytron-esque electronic sheen and on ‘Getting By’, an almost ecological calm a la FortDax. An excellent debut LP.

Skif

 

Rock Sound Issue 62 www.rock-sound.net

Funny not long before sticking this in the CD player I was indulging a rare urge to listen to Soft Cell. Trademark certainly seam to be aproaching music from the same seedy back-alley as sex dwarfs Marc Almond and Dave Ball, seducing with jism-stained promises of depravity and delight before louchely tossing it aside (only to bemoan it's loss). Apart from sharing a similarly sordid electro sound, the duo also share a lovelorn soulfulness with their forbears that helps round out their character somewhat - 'Sine Love' for instance is a lovely synth ballad with a heartbreakingly plantive delivery that'll have wannabe numanoids weaping into their Wasps. The Kitsch element here may put off those seeking 'Authenticity' from their alt-pop, but Trademark are deeply superficial rather than superficially deep. You dig?

Joe Stannard

 

 

 

 

Drowned in Sound July 2004 www.drownedinsound.com

Oh, how I have waited for this album. I have waited long, and patiently, for a time when Oliver, Stuart and Paul - a.k.a. Trademark - would have a full album out, and now I have it in my hands! So, after so much waiting, what do I think of it?

For those of you not in the know, Trademark are the epitome of the nu-wave old-school revival. Whereas bands like The Futureheads owe a degree of debt to XTC and The Killers take their cues from most bands with synths and headbands, Trademark draw their influences from the 80s synth-pop scene - Soft Cell and The Human League for example - and the end product possesses such style it's scary.

Opener 'My Life In Stereo' is the sort of song that the Pet Shop Boys have been trying to reproduce ever since 'Actually', with a scratchy electro-over-spoken-word intro reminiscent of a circus ringmaster. It bleeps more than your standard Nokia mobile whilst all the time remaining slightly dark and sinister courtesy of the synths in the background.

The whole album feels like a flashback to two decades ago yet still manages to sound fresh and new. Tracks like the beautiful ballad 'Sine Love' prove that Trademark are more than a mere one-trick pony, whilst 'Interim' makes me want to shuffle my feet under a shiny disco ball - step the BPM up a notch and throw in a hip swinging tune for good measure!

It is kitsch, catchy and plain fun; I couldn't ask for more. It showcases everything that the band are good at, but - and I have posed this question numerous times before in conversation and in my earlier demo review - while their talent is obvious and their polish more gleaming than the Crown Jewels, can they make the step up to the big time? Bands like Baxendale have tried a similar thing and vanished into thin air. Ladytron and Fischerspooner were once leading lights, but even they're not shining quite so brightly now.

The simple fact is - whether they crack the mainstream or not - that this deserves a place in anyone's record collection, whether it be as a retrospective, a record to listen to before going out to dance the night away, or for listening to on the bus to work. It is, quite simply, an electro cut above.

Colin Weston

 

Drowned in Sound April 2004 www.drownedinsound.com

The 1980s may have been and gone but the electro-pop sound is living through a resurgence (look no further than Fischerspooner for an example). Trademark could be among the pioneers of the electro nu-wave generation.

Following on from their superb self-financed mini-album 'Fear:Disconnection', this five-track continues to showcase their talent. From the electro-glam 'This Is Our Trademark' onwards, the band are on to a winner. 'Interim' is a reminder of how good the Pet Shop Boys used to be in their early eighties peak with synths and twinkly sound effect.

To call this a demo is almost an insult as the recording quality is superb but what else would you expect from a band who supported The Human League less than a year ago? With their first real album due out this year on Truck Records. This could be their last step towards the big time and no-one can begrudge them that.

Colin Weston

 

BBC Oxford June 2003 www.bbc.co.uk/oxford/music

Trademark are billed as electro pop which worries me slightly. However, from the moment three guys in lab coats with fairy-light lit arms appear, something tells me this will be far from the pale Duran Duran imitators I was expecting.

Two of them hide themselves behind banks of keyboards and kick off with a tune welcoming us to their weird and wonderful world. Luke Smith performs at a previous concert. Coupling the ice cold coolness of Kraftwerk with the vocal mannerisms of Neil Tennant, the songs glide and stutter in an effortless way. Trademark is also probably the only band who could do a lecture on sound waves mid-set and get away with it. Informative as well as entertaining!

 

 

 

 

Plan B July 2004 www.planbmag.com

Trademark are boffins. They grew up together and probably played with technical lego. Want more is a set of experiments designed to produce a formula for love: singer Oliver, his voice swooping and boyishly pretty, sounds rational in his pursuit of it. You can't hurry love, or science. Behind him in matching white lab coats, Stuart and Paul have assembled tools they can trust: Casio, Yamaha, Korg...Their sound is soft, Kind; controlled to facillitate understanding. Trademark are staking their reputation on love being found in the pure pop song; taking on the work abandoned in the early Eighties by Vince Clarke when he left the institutle of Depeche Mode (in association with the Kraftwerk tests carried out by Orchestral Manouevers In The Dark).

On stage they have been known to demonstrate how love is like a sine wave, using a flip chart and diagrams. On record that love is a pain in the heart. Though in desperate need of funding, and far from a conclusion, the early results are highly promising.

Tim Chipping

 

Nightshift May 2004 www.nightshift.oxfordmusic.net

Back in the early 80s, electronic music it was quite the purest form of pop, with The Human League, Depeche Mode and, later on The Pet Shop Boys painting pristine pictures of a silicon future. Ocford trio Trademark, though varley out of their teens, are part of a growing movement of bands inspired by that time, stripping back the layers of confusion and cross-pollination that have built up around electronic music over the decades.

"Want More" is Trademark's debut and they start awkwardly, their transistors obviously not warmed up yet, with the Pet Shop Biys rip-off "My Life In Stereo". but Sine Love finds man and machine in closer harmony, a sci-fi lullaby riding on the hum and chatter of gentle machinary, sharing a solemn, poetic mood if not musical style with those other Truck favourites, Tompaulin.

Trademark are at their most effiecient (hey they are androids after all, or at least they want us to think as much), when they let the old-school synth sounds bubble up around the I. Am. A. Robot vocals, like on "Square Wave Anger", injecting a rare moment of rage into proceedings, sounding a lot like forgotten synth hero Fad Gadget. Of course, they stretch all this technobabble too far across the album, with metaphorical cliches like "I directly interface with your heart", when what they really mean is, "I want to give you a good seeing to, Mrs Lady Robot". But then, so much of the very best synth-pop was equally stilted and pretentious. Check out the first two Human League albums) a huge infulence by the sounds of it) to see just how much you can get away with when you cast off the "keep it real" restraining belt of rock and roll.

Furthur into the album there are unbashed steals from Depeche Mode (notably "Personal Jesus" on "All Too Late"). OMD (particually vocally) and Silicon Teens (oh go on, search them our people, you will love us and thank us forever when you hear them). They save the best till last, though: "Triangle Indifference" with it's vocoder vocals and blink-and-you'll-miss-them snatches of John Foxx's "20th Century" and Human League's "The Things That Dreams Are Made Of".

Perhaps too soft-focus and lightweight to stand up against the modern synth-pop champions likes of Ladytron or Nemo, Trademark, though, are a timely reminder that the future seamed more appealing when we thought it was going to be all bacofoil miniskirts and antiseptic glass domes. Bleep and, in a very real sense, bloop.

David Kattack

 

 

 

 

Interviews

Radio Interview: In 2004 Stu was interviewed on XFM to accompany the Trademark live session recorded for the station. You can also listen to Stu being interviewed by John Kennedy live - here