Erasure. A band that have managed to bypass the '90s in every way. 80's style synthesisers? They got ‘em in spadefuls. But 90’s irony? Just take a look at the impossibly bland title. It’s such an obvious thing to say that it actually looks suspicious…maybe Erasure HAVE actually picked up on some humour and Burt Bacharach and co were just elaborate fronts to mask Andy Bell’s genius? Just a thought.
Anyway, unrecognised genius or not, he and his band sure as hell like their karaoke – remember the ABBA covers album? - and they like it traditional, novelty value and all. ‘Real’ instruments are seemingly barred in the little Erasure time warp and beeps and blips are all the rage. It’s all very reassuringly familiar (maybe they need to splash out and buy version two of ‘You Too Can Use A Sequencer!’) and after a few listens it gets all very irritating. There’s only so much repetition someone can take, only so much candy floss that can be eaten before it turns nauseatingly sweet in your mouth. And that’s the problem with the album – there’s just too much of it. Maybe one or two tracks worked over with a synthesiser might be nice, maybe a cover of a great song done carefully might have worked, but a whole album? Jesus, it’s like a demonstration of all the polyphonic ring tones on the latest wonder phone. Not much in the way of those pesky emotions that compel most musicians to do strange and fascinating things.
So. The continual beeps get on the old nerves a bit. It’s a bunch of songs that, for the most part, were done better by the original artists (especially 'Make Me Smile'. If you can listen past the hideous intro to that then you’re a bigger person than me). But there are a couple of gems on this, namely 'Solsbury Hill' and 'Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime'. And it’s not the fact that they’ve used more exciting beeps on these songs that they shine, it’s the pure, unadulterated joy in the vocals. He has such an expressive voice, it’s a shame he hides it behind his sequencer as it would all sound much more convincing if it wasn’t punctuated with random grunts of a computer in the background.
Oh yeah, couple of other things to mention. Firstly, that it’s all a bit pointless really. Someone should put out a public service notice warning that novelty can wear extremely thin. And I’m not altogether convinced that their version of 'Video Killed The Radio Star’ is different in any way to the original. And finally, steer clear of this if you hold any true affection for any of the original songs. Cos I was raised to the croons and vocal ticks of Buddy Holly, and not even Bell’s vocals, which have the ability to soar, can faithfully reproduce that.