A World Beyond by Erasure – Album Review
by Roger Crow
Ah Erasure, bouncy eighties pop. Feelgood, foot-tapping tunes. However, in 2018 the opening track on their new album A World Beyond, sounds like the polar opposite.
Lyrics-stret-ched-out-ac-ross-pain-ful-chords. Hardly a barrel of laughs Vince and Andy. I can’t really see Trevor and Simon swinging their pants to that. (Yes, decades later and I still mentally see the Going Live veterans’ impersonation every time I hear Erasure).
Still, hoping for brighter things I press on.
Track two, ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’, is also a bit of a wet weekend. I have a feeling Mr Bell is having a bad day at the recording studio. The bright, sunny Erasure I once knew has become a depressed teenager languishing in his bedroom.
Light and shade is important in every band’s career, and I’m happy to embrace the dark side if it’s laced with flashes of hope. But this is so solemn, I feel like I’m at a wake.
“A little formulaic”
Track three, ‘World Begone’, offers some positivity. Brighter chords, sunnier feel, and Andy Bell has a touch of optimism in his voice. It’s still solemn, and less foot-tapping than hands in pockets on a rainy winter’s Monday morning, kicking cans around the streets of a deserted shopping centre.
But what’s this? Track four. That’s more like it. A bit brighter. ‘A Bitter Parting’ is not the story of Andy’s trip to the barber’s but an up-and-down song. Simple lines intertwining as Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnell might say. The backbeat is pretty melodic, a little upbeat even. So far it’s my favourite.
‘Still It’s Not Over’ is another slice of pavement-gazing melancholy. It’s not bad; the lyrics are a little formulaic, but I’m all for cat-sat-on-the-mat predictably if the song works. ‘Take Me Out of Myself’ is also soul-searching, heavy on the downbeat chords.
By this point it’s clear the album is 40 minutes of heartbreak, which is arguably the greatest fuel for any LP. Adele made millions from twanging heartstrings, so it makes financial sense. Misery loves company, and while this might more more like a Mike Leigh soundtrack than the Erasure I’m used to, it’s still engaging enough.
‘Sweet Summer Loving’ could have done with some polish in the lyrics department, but it’s bound to be a grower. “Baby you’re the best thing that ever happened to me,” enthuses Andy, navigating his way through some half-baked lines. Obviously Erasure have sold albums in their millions and I’ve not, but nothing floats my boat more than a well crafted lyric.
‘Love You to the Sky’ sees Andy’s vocals struggling to soar while the chains of melancholy chords weigh him down. ‘Lousy Sum of Nothing’ sees us on the home stretch, and it’s clear we’re no happier in this stubbed toe of an album. It’s another solemn track, but it works. The lyrics are less tortuous. The chords are terrific. Some beautiful piano work. It might be the standout tune. It also doesn’t outstay its welcome, which is crucial for any great tune. (Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ for example is a repeated verse too long, while David Cook’s ‘Criminals’ nails the perfect duration for any great track).
‘Just a Little Love’ is the brighter swan song, the happy ending after 36 minutes of doom and gloom. Again, perfect duration.
If you’ll excuse the obvious pun, I’ve more than a little respect for Erasure. They’re the masters of upbeat pop, and though there’s a huge gap in my knowledge between their eighties heyday and now, there no prizes for guessing which phase of their career I prefer.
image: Doron Gild