Erasure was sort of an anachronism even at the height of
their late-80's success. The group, made up of Depeche Mode and Yaz
founder Vince Clarke and soft-but-strong singer Andy Bell, made synthicized hi-NRG dance
music that was "so five years ago" even then, but their ability with a pop hook
was undeniable on hits like "A Little Respect," "Stop" and "Chains of Love."
However, Erasure was never known for their skill at interpreting other
people's music. In fact, their previous all-covers EP Abba-esque, where the
band recorded four songs by Swedish pop group ABBA, was a bizarre failure. It's
kind of surprising because in many ways ABBA and Erasure were similar bands from
different eras, but the aggressively (then) modern technobeats were allowed to
trample the good pop songs they were supposed to be at service of. (The
Pet Shop Boys were a somewhat similar contemporary that was always much more
adept at putting their own stamp on diverse remakes.)
Which makes it all the weirder that for Erasure's first album in
three years is a collection of covers. It is all the more weird because of
the song choices, which are eccentric, to say the least. We've got Elvis
Presley's "Can't Help Falling In Love" (Elvis Costello would seem a better fit
for this band,) Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill," Buddy Holly's "Everyday" and
"True Love Ways," The Partridge Family's "Walking In the Rain" and Cliff Eberhart's "Goodnight." They also do The Righteous Brothers' "Ebb Tide"
and "You've Lost That Loving Feeling." (Hello, you have fifty years of popular music to choose from
and you do TWO Righteous Brothers remakes?)
This puts them into a sort of weird chicken and egg position.
Does the album sound so dated because these songs are inappropriate for this
band, or do most of the songs not work here because they are being hijacked into
a style that is such an ill fit for them?
For example, "Solsbury Hill," one of the songs that would
seem a match for the band, is garnished with a queasy disco gallop that feels totally
wrong for the song. They bleed the melody from "Everybody's Got To Learn
Sometime" (by one-hit wonders the Korgis) so that it becomes a well-sung dirge.
The band is more successful when they stay faithful to the source material.
"True Love Ways" is performed on the band's traditional synths, but
it works because it doesn't sound like it. Same with the Three Degrees' Philly soul nugget
"When Will I See You Again."
This album may have been interesting in Erasure's prime, but
now it just feels dead in the water. Sadly, the song that sounds most
comfortable with an Erasure makeover is the Buggles' pioneering new wave ditty
"Video Killed the Radio Star," a song that is now as much of an outdated curio
as... well, Erasure.