Erasure - Light At The End Of The World

Erasure Erasure
Light At The End Of The World

3 out of 5 stars
Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson

“Light At The End of the World” is a synth-dominated time capsule of 80’s industrial/dance music. If Erasure’s music sounds like Depeche Mode there’s a good reason -- keyboardist Vince Clarke was a founding member of the group. Clarke left the group in 1981 after their first album, forming Yaz (a/k/a Yazoo) with opera voiced Alison Moyet. Although the duo’s “Situation” and “Don’t Go” were in constant rotation in dance clubs, they split after two albums. Clarke bounced around, recording with vocalists Feargal Sharkey and Paul Quinn before discovering Andy Bell, whose vocal style has often been called a male doppelganger to Moyet’s. Their approach to club music was often criticized for being effete, a swipe at Bell who was openly gay, but it was also highly successful as the duo scored five #1 albums in England between 1988 and 1994.

Bell’s resonant vocal gets strained through a synthesizer in the opening notes of “Sunday Girl.” With firing synths and a programmed drum track, “Sunday Girl” seems to have all the attributes of the soundtrack to a low budget Japanese cartoon. You’ll have doubts, but let the song play out and you’ll be rewarded by Bell, whose golden timbre rivals Simply Red's Mick Hucknall for effect and range: “Don’t you mess your life up Sunday girl.” It may be hard for the duet to get airplay for this style of forgotten music. Do they still play this kind of stuff in clubs? Maybe only in the swirling disco ball in your memory banks. Hopefully, “Sunday Girl” will turn back the clock to when you dated that special girl with the Farrah Fawcett hairdo (okay, maybe not).

Bell’s voice gets deep and dramatic for “I Could fall In Love With You.” Bell sounds very comfortable in this range, which keeps Erasure’s creaky synthesizer-based sound from becoming frozen-in-time nostalgia. They could use a real set of drums to bump up the sound, though.

“Sucker For Your Love” has a hurried tempo and the slightly-stuffy privileged Euro vibe found in The Pet Shop Boys’ material. You can picture playing this while racing down the Autobahn in your Porsche. Bell’s vocals are a little too athletic and over-the-top, bordering on hilarious, and the lyrics read like a bad Jackie Collins novel: “Give me back my calling cards and vices, my dignity and romance novels too.” It shows promise when the synths drop out and its just Bell’s authoritative vocal, but Clarke’s bees nest keyboard attack is a bit to hyper. You’re a sucker if you play this one again.

“Storm In A Teacup” is dominated by Bell’s rich voice instead of the synths, which quietly whirl in the background. There’s enough echo in the vocal to make it a quiet storm instead of a threatening one.

For a change a change of pace the keyboards that intro “Fly Away” are programmed to sound like a guitar. The soaring vocals are strong, gospel-tinged and fully realized. Given his theatrical, yet pleasing delivery, it would be interesting to see how Bell’s Bryan Ferry delivery would fare in a contemporary setting.

Erasure wisely keeps varying the sound of the synths as the CD progresses. In “Golden Heart” they’re soft, with a moderate, subservient beat. As a result, you’ll listen to Bell rather than the expansive production around him.

“How My Eyes Adore You” adopts Cameo’s “Word Up” metronome in the hope of giving it some street credibility. It mixes pseudo funk with romance, a tough sell in itself. Ultimately it doesn’t work, because Bell’s voice is geared for more romantic fare, and the funk is forced. You’ll cover your eyes out of embarrassment for Bell. Just make sure you cover your ears as well.

“Darlene’ is also ill-advised Brit soul. The lyrics tell a biographical story that gets more tragically unbelievable with each line: “Skyline passion city streets that I adore, shadows by me grow rent collectors at my door. You got your religion, I got my addictions, we got dirty dishes in the sink.” This is a working class version of the ghetto storyline in The Supremes' “Love Child” without the groove. If you lived like this in real life, Darlene would tell you to switch to paper plates and give you the telephone number for the Moonies when she left. I’ve been waiting to say this – this song should be erased.

“When A lover Leaves You” takes the listener back to what the duo does best, semi-romantic, semi-industrial club music, with the keyboards swirling and bouncing around the Bell-toned vocals. What makes Bell a good vocalist is he’s found a comfortable pocket for suave delivery and never pushes his voice to the point of annoyance. He obviously learned what his range is a long time ago and doesn’t try to experiment at the cost of damaging Erasure’s sound. He may be stuck in a tight formula, but look no further than Al Green, Muddy Waters, or Bob Marley for proof that a limited style can provide listening pleasure.

“Glass Angel” is the most atmospheric, mystifying, and best song on the CD. The vocals penetrate the blanket of synths, mixing together with their sinister intent until the vocal and the music are practically one. “Glass Angel” also has some noticeable grounding bass and is highlighted by a great exit in which the keyboards take off like a spirit reaching for its place amongst the clouds.

Try not to be turned off by Clarke and Bell’s appearance. They’re look like Gollum refugees from “Lord of the Rings,” with ruddy skin, sunken cheeks, bad teeth, razor stubble and hair shaved down to the nub. And don’t let the horrendous diamond in a patch of purple puke cover sway you either. If you’re a fan of techno, this is a worth a listen. The running time is a bit skimpy too (about 45 minutes, but I wasn’t watching the clock).

You’ll probably want to forget some of the more dated material on “Light At the End Of The Road.” But once you hear Andy Bell’s melodious voice, you won’t be able to erase it from your mind. Go to the light.



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