Saturday, 9 July 2011
Re-mastered and bonus-laden editions of the first two Erasure albums were released last week. In my capacity as someone who used to work for them, back in the 1990’s, and who has remained a fan, I thought I’d review them.
Wonderland is a fun little album, but not one I revisit often. Vince’s synth arrangements are still pretty sparse, like his stuff wtih Yazoo and his production work for Robert Marlow, and the songs are mostly in the Yazoo formula; Who Needs Love Like That is basically a rewrite of Don’t Go (blasphemy, I know, but it’s true) while My Heart... So Blue sounds more Yazoo than Yazoo (this track also being the one where Andy most closely mimics Alison Moyet’s vocal style). My favourite track is probably Say What, which I think might have been earmarked as a fourth single at one point.
The re-mastering does seem to give the album a lot more whack and thud. I’m not entirely sure about the selection of bonus tracks – my pedantic nature would prefer the inclusion of the ‘proper’ mix of Don’t Say No rather than a remix, and it’s a bit of a missed opportunity not to include oddities like the US album mix of Oh L’Amour, the German-language version, or stuff like Sugar Hill (which I am certain was an out-take from this album) or Andy’s audition versions of One Day and Who Needs Love Like That. Plus there are some early TV appearances where Vince & Andy try out a dance routine dressed as cowboys which are hilarious. On the other hand, it’s fantastic that the Stockholm concert is finally seeing the light of day. I’m pretty sure it was the first, or one of the first, times they’d ever performed Sometimes live (possibly before they had even recorded the studio version).
Listening to it, I also noticed for the first time that the version of Push Me Shove Me on the album is the Tacos Mix with the last 35 seconds cut off. I’m not sure whether the abrupt ending was deliberate or not. Let’s presume it was deliberate.
The Circus is a much stronger album, with four singles – Sometimes, the brilliant Victim Of Love, the sadly under-rated It Doesn’t Have To Be with its Paul Simon Graceland middle-eight, and The Circus, a bleak, pseudo-political song with a strange melody and, unusually for Erasure, a melodic bass-line. There’s also Hideaway, about which I been sworn to secrecy, and If I Could and Leave Me To Bleed, both fantastic songs using the same lyric formula as Sometimes (i.e. verses based around denials, ‘It’s not the way you...’, ‘I don’t believe... ‘, ‘It wasn’t me that saw you...’) and Don’t Dance which I still contend is one of the weakest songs they ever wrote. But overall, the songwriting on this album is incredibly strong and disciplined, Andy’s found his own voice and the arrangements are much more intricate (i.e. the counterpoint tootle at the end of Victim Of Love.)
Again the pedant in me would have preferred the original version of The Soldier’s Return to be included on the album rather than a remix and I can’t believe the fantastic Decay Mix of The Circus has been overlooked. On the other hand, there are radio sessions that I never knew existed, which is terribly exciting, and you get the Live At The Seaside concert on DVD, which is, of course, terrific. The only thing which would’ve been nice to have included (but which was probably impractical) would be the kids TV appearance where Vince & Andy are dressed as Pontin’s Bluecoats riding a buggy around a theme park performing Sometimes with different lyrics.
Anyway, I recommend both albums highly; now, please, I want re-mastered editions of Wild! and Chorus!