Friday, 19 July 2013
108 The Circus - Erasure
Purchased : October 7 1988
Tracks : It Doesn't Have To Be / Hideaway / Don't Dance / If I Could / Sexuality / Victim Of Love / Leave Me To Bleed / Sometimes / The Circus / Spiralling
This was the next purchase from Soundsearch the following week.
"The Circus" was Erasure's second hit-filled album , one of 1987's big sellers. After the simple synth-pop pleasures of their debut "Wonderland" there seems to have been a conscious effort to come up with something more serious and sophisticated for the follow-up.
The first indication of that was "It Doesn't Have To Be" their second hit in early 1987. It sounded awkward and ungainly then and hasn't aged well. The rhythm is lumpy and the lyrics about apartheid don't rise much above Culture Club's The War Song for well-meaning vapidity. Then there's the Swahili breakdown in the middle eight which interrupts what flow the song has to no great purpose. The chorus is passable but that might be down to the suspicious similarity to Fra Lippo Lippi's terrific Shouldn't Have To Be Like That ( one of the decade's greatest non-hits ) from the previous year.
"Hideaway" is much better , a forceful Hi-NRG stomper about coming out to your parents with a great vocal from Andy Bell leaping from wounded growl in the verses to an impressive falsetto in the chorus. Clarke finds the right chords to back him up and it would have been a much better single choice.
"Don't Dance " is ambiguous; it could either be exhorting some form of political resistance or simply a just say no anti-drugs song. The slow electro-funk backing is somewhat turgid so that the line "Don't dance to the rhythm" seems like something of a meta- concept.
"If I Could" is a charming little song with a synthetic string intro wherein Bell castigates the hard hearted attitude of his Other in the verses while declaiming his own altruism in the chorus. He also sounds most like Moyet once again on this track while Clarke's mid-paced clicks and whirrs evoke Kraftwerk.
"Sexuality" is a convincing slice of steamy electronic funk, not far removed from Yazoo's State Farm with Bell working up a sweat about getting it on and Clarke finding the right melodic touches to embellish the sleazy clockwork rhythms.
"Victim Of Love" the third single which opens Side Two finds Bell channelling the spirit of I Will Survive sending the lover who hurt him packing -"Step right back, put on your coat and your hat". Clarke deftly works some acoustic guitar into the mix but otherwise it follows the normal pattern of Erasure singles which has made them the terror of pop quizzers across the land.
The ominous rumble and percussion embellishments of "Leave Me To Bleed" call Blancmange to mind as Bell growls his way through the accusations of betrayal.
"Sometimes" was the group's big breakthrough hit in the autumn of 1986 surprisingly reaching number 2 in the charts. I say surprising because to me it's never sounded like a massive advance from any of the flop singles from "Wonderland". Listening to it again though it does have those echoing backing vocals and Guy Barker's trumpet solo to commend it. A fairly simple song about getting it on , the verses borrow the "It's not the..." list structure from A Flock of Seagulls' Wishing and the chorus is characteristically strong.
The title track , released as the fourth single in multiple formats in the autumn of 1987 sees the duo delving into politics with a heartfelt lament at the human cost of de-industrialisation. It's one of my favourites and when listening to the R1 chart countdown that autumn I became painfully conscious that it was just about the only record I wanted to hear in those dark SAW-dominated days. The unusual jerky rhythm was intended to approximate the sound of a record being played backwards and the synthetic accordion and brass band interlude also contribute to the mood of decay. It still stands out as an oddity in their repertoire and all the better for it.
That just leaves the unsettling "Spiralling" which starts out as an OMD-like synth torch song with Bell emoting that he'll get over his trauma in time and then subverts itself by turning into a fairground waltz in the midst of which a quieter, more distant Bell makes it clear that he's actually preparing for suicide - "give me the courage to die".
This is actually a very good sophomore effort which firmly planted them on the chart landscape for the next decade.