Monday, 14 January 2013
101 Wonderland - Erasure
Purchased : September 2 1988
Tracks : Who Needs Love Like That ? / Reunion / Cry So Easy / Push Me Shove Me / Heavenly Action / Say What / Love Is A Loser / Senseless / My Heart ...So Blue / Oh L'amour / Pistol
This was the next purchase from Soundsearch and the first one I had to take back for jumping but fortunately they had another copy on hand.
So we're sticking with Vince Clarke but jumping forward nearly four years to his first full length album since the dissolution of Yazoo and the collapse after one single of his Assembly project. After marking time with a largely ignored duet with ex-Bourgie Bourgie frontman Paul Quinn he got together with a new singer Andy Bell to form Erasure in 1985. This debut LP was released in March 1986 with lowered expectations since no less than three singles ( all included here ) had failed to crack the Top 40, the public exhibiting the same exasperation with the wandering songsmith that they had recently shown ( with more permanent effect ) towards the similarly nomadic ex-Special Terry Hall.
It's the first of those non-smashes Clarke's "Who Needs Love Like That ? " that kicks things off here. It was released in October 1985 and reached number 55 with most attention focussed on a similarity in vocal tone between Bell and Moyet with the following assumption that that was why he'd been "picked". It's a fairly straightforward synthpop ditty with an Oriental-flavoured melody and vaguely accusatory lyrics. There's no obvious reason for its failure and indeed it was a big hit in remixed form as a trailer for a greatest hits LP in 1992.
"Reunion" like most of the tracks here is a Clarke/ Bell co-write and that would become the modus operandi of the group, the straight Clarke writing the music around Bell's usually gay-flavoured lyrics. Typically this has a springy beat, attractive melody, plaintive singing and words carrying a hint of bitterness beneath the joyful message - " They tried so hard to stop me, still I call out your name."
"Cry So Easy" ( the only song credited to Bell alone ) is based around a synth approximation of the Pretty Vacant intro. Bell chastises a feckless lover and it's tuneful enough but it doesn't go anywhere.
"Push Me Shove Me" covers similar lyrical territory with Bell announcing his exit from an abusive relationship but is musically more interesting with what sounds like some Nile Edwards choppy guitar but is presumably synthesised. It's dark and sombre with Clarke playing overlapping sinister lines that hint at his first band.
"Heavenly Action" was the second single which got lost in the Christmas rush of 1985 and didn't chart at all ( I bought it blind in the new year having not heard it on the radio ). There's no really obvious reason for its failure, it's a straightforward celebration of a new love with an attractive chorus followed by a neat key shift but there is perhaps a Thompson Twins ploddiness about it.
Side Two begins with the sludgy funk of "Say What" with Bell admonishing a sexual teaser. It's a bit undercooked particularly the chorus with its "higher/liar" rhyme.
"Love Is A Loser" would have made a good single with its fairground swing and defiantly upbeat melody and lyric ( directly contradicting the odd title ) .
You can probably tell that I'm struggling a bit for something to say about these relatively straightforward songs. "Senseless" for example is a perfectly acceptable slab of sleazy electrodance that could be Blancmange if not for the more directly sexual lyric.
Clarke's "My Heart....So Blue" is the album's highlight, an account of bereavement expressed in simple direct words with an appropriately stoic vocal from Bell. Choral synths on the chorus and the military drumming that kicks off in the latter half of the song do conjure up OMD's Maid Of Orleans but this is just as good - a genuine lost classic in fact.
"Oh L' Amour" was the third single early in 1986 and its failure is even less explicable as it's a corking break-up song full of melodic invention and earworm synth hooks. However it was a big hit for the reformed Dollar ( Thereza Bazar's second attempt at trying to work with the malignant midget ) two years later and it's perhaps surprising that this album hasn't been plundered more extensively as a source of commercial songs which aren't that familiar.
"Pistol" rounds off the album with Heaven 17-ish electrofunk and some not very subtle gay inuendo rather let down by a weak chorus and cliched Fairlight brass fills.
As a debut album by a new group it probably deserved better than its 71 peak; it did return to the charts as the group became more popular but didn't improve on its original placing. If you compare it to Yazoo - particularly the previous entry - it does feel like a vaguely disappointing backwards step for its co-creator and for a short while it seemed like the public shared that view.