It’s hard to believe that a quarter of a century ago, we were introduced to Erasure with Wonderland. “Oh L’Amour” and “Who Needs Love Like That” still stand strong —much more so than anything Erasure has recorded in the past decade.
That changes with the release of their 14th studio album, Tomorrow’s World. Thanks to producer Frankmusik, Erasure regains the excitement of Wonderland and those early releases, but still pushes forward with polish.
Frankmusik and mixer Rob Orton have worked their electronica magic on Lady Gaga and Pet Shop Boys, but their work with Erasure seems, as Frankmusik has dubbed it, a calling.
Without dismissing their classic sound, the album is distinctly Erasure but dusted off and refreshed with a solid modern take, apparent from the start with “Be With You” and “Fill Us with Fire.” Vince Clarke and Andy Bell composed all nine tracks and yes, they run with a dance beat, but Frankmusik and Orton update it with a crispness the band has been waning on.
The two tracks reflect the energy and the beats that flow in and out of the album keeping it consistent and exciting.
Electronica blues may sound like an irony, but they pull it off in “You’ve Got To Save Me Now.” Bell mans up to the challenge with a soulful delivery that’s buoyed by a very modern take on a bluesy beat and lyrics like When everything was better you’d hang on the wrong meanin’ / When love is so demeaning / I got to pick myself up off the floor. This approach pushes
Erasure’s direction without stretching them out of shape into something you can’t recognize.
The first single, “When I Start (To Break it All Down),” mirrors the vibrancy of the first two tracks. Bell delivers a masterful emotional performance here that works with the woeful lovey-dovey lyrics. The song is peppy, but genuinely earnest thanks to Bell.
With so much right here, the album still has a couple of trip-ups. In “A Whole Lotta Love Run Riot,” they take on a meditation on celebrity, but the lyrics get a bit corny. Celebs singing about celebs doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but whatever. Forget the lyrics and take in the beat. The music track is so clean and powerful; it’s like taking a bath in techno. The same goes for “I Lose Myself.” Erasure turns in their angry tune, but the clichés add up to a forgettable track. I got rid of that chip on my shoulder / I never thought I’d be tough enough / Ain’t that what your momma told ya are lost but the music is fine. Although, if they really wanted to be angry, throw in a screeching guitar.
My hope is “Then I Go Twisting” becomes their signature song here as well as in the pantheon of Erasure classics. It’s the loveliest and most fun moment on Tomorrow. In some ways it’s prophetic as Bell sings Sick of this techno monophonic sounds and then later, More of the same stuff / I don’t wanna let you down. They don’t, though the album begins to wind down here. The song deserves two things — great headphones and your attention. Go out, buy some high-end cans and let Bell’s voice, the thumpy bass and crisp keyboards seep into your ears and body. Crappy earbuds won’t cut it for this piece of music euphoria.
Tomorrow’s World puts them back on track to the Erasure we love. Their last few albums we saw Erasure falling into itself losing some of their clever whimsy and energy. The symbiotic relationship between the band and Orton and Frankmusik created a strong album, but recreated the excitement of their early releases.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.
Synth pop legends Erasure put on a healthy show to a sold-out crowd at House of Blues Sunday night with a handful of new songs from their upcoming album, Tomorrow’s World. Flanked by gargoyles and simulated stained glass, Erasure was in fine form as they churned out the hits, but perhaps the star-making turn of the night was by opener Frankmusik.
Erasure frontman Andy Bell still maintains an eccentric stage presence and he’d often strike a pose to the cheers of the audience. His backless vest tied with string was kinda hot over his fit frame and he maintained danceable energy through the setlist. Of course, Vince Clark does his quiet thing hiding behind a massive gargoyle keyboard/desk for his laptop but would occasionally pop out to play the guitar or cut Bell out of his vest to change into a bedazzled Michael Jackson T-shirt.
At times, though, the songs were way too loud and as pleasant as their pop is, the bass and Bell’s voice were simultaneously pounding and screeching. Of course, being doped up on allergy/cold medicine might have affected my perspective, but even Bell himself kept adjusting his levels. When he sang “Love to Hate You,” his vocal runs were rather painful. Through most of the concert, we stood up close, however, as we muddled through the thick crowd toward the back, the sound was much better from afar. Or at least, less throbbing.
The duo never strayed far from the original sounds of their songs, which was refreshing. I hate when veteran artists feel the need to alter their biggest hits to suit them and keep them fresh. Erasure was true to their music and as each classic opened, the audience cheered deafeningly. The band nary missed a hit and new songs fit in like a glove.
The audience, though, was a surprising one. I expected it to look like a Saturday night at Station 4, but instead, the crowd was much more straight than I would have imagined. Baby boomers and twentysomethings seemed to outnumber the gays, but it was still a friendly environment as same-sex couples freely expressed their emotion to each other. And not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Other than Bell’s glorious grandstanding at times, Erasure was reliably good. But Frankmusik, who also produced Tomorrow, killed his 30-plus minute set. The 25 year-old in his rockabilly drag took over the stage as if he was the headliner. More famous as a DJ and producer, he shone with strong vocals and an abundance of energy during his short set of dance music. Some of his mashups were laughable as his song would move into tunes like “Easy Lover” and “You Can Call Me Al.” But he has catchy tunes and his energy was far more amped up than Bell’s. Songs like “No I.D.” and “Ludicrous” show his youth, but his live delivery is something to be witnessed.
Modern Tonic — a free daily email delivering gay-approved pop culture gems before they get co-opted by everyone else — presents a weekly music update here on Towleroad.
TODAY’S FEATURED NEW RELEASES:
After winning a Grammy® for her retro-fabulous debut Rockferry, Welsh singer Duffy doesn't stray far from her hit-making template on her follow-up Endlessly. Yet why should she? The highlights of her debut — the aching title track, the London tube-station inspired "Warwick Avenue," and the soul sparking "Mercy" — were guided with expert ears by the formed London Suede guitarist Bernard Butler. For Endlessly, Duffy recruited Albert Hammond of "It Never Rains in Southern California" fame (he's also the proud papa of the Strokes' guitarist Albert Hammond, Jr.). Hammond brings Duffy's blue-eyed Motown soul into the early 70's and mines her sensitive vibrato for a gritty AM-radio vibe. The premiere single "Well, Well, Well," with backing from the Roots, could fit perfectly between Al Green's "Let’s Stay Together" and the Staple Singers' "I'll Take You There" on a 1972 radiocast. "My Boy" harkens to the danceable soft rock that predated disco. And the title track is a gorgeous ballad as languid and warm as a long summer's day. The Euro-disco of "Lovestruck" sounds like it floated over from Kylie Minogue's Aphrodite; a baffling misstep that mars an otherwise pristine collection.
As good as Natasha Bedingfield's songs can be, she's always seemed a bit anonymous, one in a line of solid but undistinguished pop singers. But her third album, Strip Me, might change all that — not only does it play like a non-stop singles machine, it's infused with more personality than ever before. First single "Touch" — produced and co-written by veteran Steve Kipner (Christina's "Genie In a Bottle") — is a bottom-heavy pop rave with crossover club potential. The title track, co-written with Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, has a mid-tempo beat so slinky you're likely to start removing your clothes before the end of the first chorus. And Swedish beat-master Andreas Kleerup steps out of his dance-friendly comfort zone to offer up the airy synth ballad "Break Thru." Bedingfield’s in great voice throughout — clear and gritty; if this is her stripped, we wouldn't mind if she got naked more often.
MPFREE: We've got a great collection of free mp3's in our player today. In order: "Synchronize" by Discodeine (aka French producers Pentile and Pilooski) featuring vocals from Brit-pop legend Jarvis Cocker, out today on DFA Records; Album track "Love All Around" from songstress Tina Dico's seventh studio album, Welcome Back Colour (a collection of greatest hits and new acoustic recordings), out February 1; "Cover Your Tracks," the new single from Canadian indie rock/ethereal pop band Young Galaxy; and a cheerful slice of holiday pop called "California Christmas" from NYC-based Sleepy Rebels off their new album Bah! Humbug!; the Razor N Guido Bango mix of Austin, Texas dance siren Zayra's "Baby Likes To Bang" off her EP of the same name.
ABBA — the Swedish Beatles — offer a remastered edition of Gold, including 19 classic hits and a DVD's worth of remastered videos for all the dancing queens on your holiday list. (Play an ABBA quiz here.)
Though a giant mousehead is involved, it's not Disney World when Deadmau5 returns with 4×4=12, eleven fresh dance tracks that prove that it must be hard to multiply inside a hot and sweaty mask.
Sufjan Stevens — "Too Much" To go with the experimental orchestral folksiness of his latest The Age of Adz, Sufjan Stevens offers this pixilated, eye-popping video.
Darwin Deez — "DNA" A couple dances through the end of their love from the kitchen to the outdoors to the bottom of a pool in New Yorker Darwin Deez's jumpy tune.
Edei — "Loved" Twenty two-year-old Londoner Edei pines in her U.K. bedsit on this sweetly longing single — featuring the bass line from Ben E. King's "Stand By Me" — from her forthcoming, hotly anticipated 2011 debut.
Hurts — "All I Want for Christmas Is New Year's Day" The dour Manchester duo Hurts forgoes the holiday blues by yearning for a bad year to end and a happy new one to begin. Lots of snow, a graveyard, an open grave, and a very Gothic vibe is attained.
Ricky Martin appeared on Larry King Live on Tuesday and knocked it out of the park with his eloquent responses to King’s questions about coming out and what’s to follow. In this clip, he discusses his desire to get married in his country along with raising his two sons with his partner. Longer clips can also be found on YouTube.
He’s also the cover story for the December/January issue of People en Espanol. The story pretty much covers the same territory Larry King did, but fairly well done. Of course, you have to be able to read in Spanish. For more, check that out here.
On Erasure’s website, the band posted the news they will re-record “A Little Respect” with the youth chorus from the Hetrick-Martin Institute which houses the Harvey Milk High School. Proceeds from the download will go toward the institute and the True Colors Fund founded by Cyndi Lauper. Erasure performed on the True Colors tour back in 2007.
According to the site, “in the wake of the tragic gay bullying incidents and related suicides across the country, Andy Bell was motivated to take action. As one of popular music’s first openly-gay celebrities Bell felt compelled to get involved. ‘I am honored and moved beyond words to serve as an Ambassador to the The Hetrick-Martin Institute. Every opportunity we have to spread tolerance and compassion must be seized and I will take special pride in doing so on HMI’s behalf.’”
The single is slated for a mid-December release. In the meantime, here’s the original which we all probably know so well.