Today’s POP RESCUE from a fate unknown, is the 2000 album Loveboat by synthpop duo Erasure, but would this be a pleasure cruise or would you be left feeling seasick? Read on…
This 11 track album opens with lead single Freedom, which starts with acoustic guitar and a mighty bass drum as Andy Bell sings in a somewhat heavenly style. The first verse soon arrives, and it simply pitches him against the acoustic guitar and bass drum and bass-heavy synth. The chorus is fairly catchy by the time it’s heading for the door, but this doesn’t feel like an Erasure song…
Where In The World follows this, with a gentle acoustic guitar strum fading in. Andy’s vocals start off low and sad, as a synthscape leads us towards some twanging guitars. The beats here are a little muted and sad. Andy’s vocals don’t get to scale anything – leaving this song also feeling like it’s by someone else.
Electric guitars open next song Crying In The Rain sounding like they’re leading us into an Alanis Morissette track.. but then Andy’s low-register vocals return. Occasionally we hear those tantalising sounds from Vince Clarke‘s synths, but they’re kept to the minimum here, as it’s another hard beat over a sad song. Andy even sounds a bit like a miserable Annie Lennox here.
Any moment now, Erasure will appear….
This is followed by Perchance To Dream which opens with what feels like a continuation of the beats as Andy puts on an odd voice for the first part of the verse – which would have been better if they’d actually employed someone to duet with him. Whilst it’s another slow sad bassy song, again there’s some more tiny little bleeps and synths from Vince that tease you into thinking that at any moment it’s all going to kick off… but alas, the song ends.
Alien is up next and whilst we’re back to acoustic guitar sounds, this song does at least sound reasonably upbeat. The chorus is the strongest one so far on this album, suggesting that perhaps this song would have fared reasonably well as a single in comparison to the two that were released. There’s still a sad element to this song in a somewhat alien-sounding synth, but over all, this is the high-point so far.
This flows almost seamlessly into Mad As We Are, which sees Andy pitched against acoustic guitar and synth, for what feels like a ballad in which he’s finally going to get to show off his voice on (almost along the lines of their brilliant hit Always from 6 years earlier). This song is gentle, somewhat space-sounding, and wonderfully drifty. The song builds up by 2m 35s, with some more great vocal harmonies again feeling somewhat heavenly. Whilst it’s definitely not single material, this is a nice song.
Here In My Heart finally throws in an up-beat pop beat, and Vince’s synths are buzzing and bleeping away in the background. This finally feels like Erasure have arrived, even if the sad sound of a synth string does wind its way through the song somewhat unnecessarily. An edit of this should definitely have been a single, as it gives a wonderful nod to their previous sound and hits.
Acoustic guitars are back for Love Is The Rage, but oddly, like most of Andy’s vocals on this album, they’re subdued – almost feeling like they are in mono rather than stereo. This is another gentle track, that builds by throwing in some tinkling piano, synths, and bass guitar. At times, this song feels like it could have been a left-over from Madonna’s Ray Of Light album, which is odd considering that this album was released on her Maverick label in the USA (well, eventually).
The beats are back again for Catch 22, and it starts off promisingly with more of those trademark Erasure synths from Vince. Andy’s vocals here are soft yet strong, building up with the synths as it heads into the chorus, although an electric guitar kind of makes it a bit messy at times.
Second and final single Moon & The Sky follows, and this sounds promising again with those bleeps building, before switching over to a fast bass-heavy dance beat. Andy’s vocals are again playing secondary to the marauding bass. If Andy’s vocals were lifted a little more above the music, and the bass reduced a bit, then this song would have sounded much better. Consequently, this single failed to chart, despite being remixed many times.
The album aptly loses with Surreal, which is loaded with synths and those acoustic guitars again. At least Andy’s vocals do get to glow a little here, but we’re not in a sing-along hit territory. The song gently unwinds to the ending in a mess of vocals and synths and that bloody acoustic guitar.
Over all, if I had this album on vinyl, i’d play it at 45prm rather than 33rpm and I think that it would feel much more Erasure and far more cheerful. At least I’d get to enjoy that vocal scale that we know Andy can hit. This is not so much loveboat, more of a misery boat.
This leaves the album feeling like a bit of a low point for the group, and even Andy damned it years later. Essentially, the first four tracks are misleading, and you’d do better listening to this album from fifth track Alien until Catch 22, after which just switch it off.
Bland ahoy! Whoops.
Where are Erasure now?
After the commercial failure of this album, Erasure went on to release an album of cover versions Other People’s Songs in 2003. This gave them a return to hit single territory with their cover of Peter Gabriel‘s track Solsbury Hill which earned them their first UK top 10 hit in 9 years.
In 2014 they released The Violet Flame which was produced by Richard X.
They release their career 30th anniversary retrospective ‘Always – The Very Best Of Erasure‘ in late-October 2015.
POP RESCUE RATING
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 2 / 5
- 2000 UK CHART PEAK: #45
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.79 from MusicMagpie.