Source - Paul Lester/The Guardian New Band Of The Day number 123.
Andrew Chester is the unsung hero behind several small bands you won't recall on big labels that you will, including Creation, Universal and Ministry Of Sound. His first signal achievement was an album of exquisitely electronicised soul-searching called Vulnerabilia that he put out in 2002 with then-musical partner Dave Luke when the pair went under the name My Computer. It was an astounding piece of work that moved one leading monthly rock magazine to describe it, if memory serves - because it was yours truly wot wrote it - as "like Thom Yorke warbling over Daft Punk/Air tunes with Mike Hedges-circa-Associates'-Sulk at the controls".
Despite higher-than-hyperbolic reviews, Vulnerabilia didn't sell as many copies as it should have, even though it is destined to become one of those cult godhead artifacts, like Big Star's Sister Lovers, that thousands will claim to have adored all along in about 20 years. A second album, No CV, with music composed by Luke and lyrics written by Chester in a drug-induced haze following a particularly harrowing break-up with his long-term girlfriend, came out in 2005, but it wasn't as astonishingly original as Vulnerabilia and sold even fewer copies.
Last Christmas, Chester, like George Michael before him, decided to give you his heart. Fed up with being a terminal pothead and teetering on the brink of total self-destruction, he suddenly got his act together. Changed his life, basically, by getting busy. "Well, I had to do something with my fingers apart from skinning up," he told Guardian Unlimited Music. So he did four things: found a job with a Manchester book publishers, began to write his memoirs entitled Don't Go Where I've Been (provisional subtitle: How Not To Make It In The Music Business) and recorded two, yes two, albums: one as My Computer and another as Good Neighbour.
After the ravishingly beautiful electronics of Vulnerabilia, No Computer comes as something of a shock: it is Ches Unplugged, singing the blues. Written in December 2006 in the Welsh mountains of Snowdonia, in a caravan, alone and inspired by the life story of Bobby Darin as depicted in the film Beyond The Sea, it sees Chester - Ches to his friends, Sir to you and me - reject technology and modern life via a series of mournful ballads that helped to mend his broken heart. Like Al Green before him.
So much for his Dark Album. There Was A Time by Good Neighbour - named after a job Ches went for on a housing estate, a collaboration with Lee Doyle, his Dr Dre - is his Light Album. Only one track is currently available (although if you see me under the arches at Waterloo station, I'd be happy to let you hear the rest), but it's a good track. Actually, that's a lie: it's the best track I've heard all year, Justice, Arctic Monkeys, Studio, Chemical Brothers, The Heavy and Ulrich Schnauss notwithstanding. The title song from the album, it has the modern-soul ambition of ABC's Poison Arrow and the grim-up-north grit of Alex Turner's 505. And it features the best use of an old sample (by Philly deities Gamble & Huff) in a contemporary pop song since Avalanches' Since I Left You. There Was A Time is the combination of candied soul and candid lyrics that we surely all get down on our knees and pray for each night (like Green Gartside before us) from the forthcoming Kevin Rowland comeback.
The buzz: There is no buzz because no one apart from the New Band Of The Day writer has heard it, but if Jo Whiley starts rinsing it (Ches was originally going to call the album Rinsed) it will be number one for six weeks - fact.