Erasure: World Beyond – album review
Erasure: World Beyond (Mute)
CD, Limited Edition CD Book Pack, Vinyl, Cassette and Download
Released 9th March 2018
The songs from previous album ‘World Be Gone’ undergo a classical re-interpretation. New vocal performances from Andy Bell alongside versions performed on violin, harp, cello, double-bass, piano, glockenspiel and vibraphone by Belgian post-classical musicians Echo Collective.
Erasure occupy a unique position in British Pop music. For 33 years a part of Mute – the singularly most arty, cool & innovative UK independent label – yet at the same time loved by the general public as a great accessible synth-pop band who continue to fill venues and delight with their live shows and consistent musical output.
I only discovered how magnificent Erasure are live last week (I’m a guitar rock critic generally…) on their current sold-out tour at Southampton’s O2 Northguild. Ninety minutes of pure-pop with wide-screen yet minimal synth, mixed with torch-song melodrama, filthy camp humour from a powerful distinctive singer and great pop-mathematician & composer high up on a podium creating the magic.
The crowd lapped it up. A predominantly middle-aged audience of enthusiastic mums & dads, and 80’s pop-pickers, some of whom probably only go to one or two gigs a year and have conservative tastes in music – but among them the secret public of Mute, electro-pop and serious music fans. Erasure fans are a broad church. Gay, straight, young and old. The bigger the hit, the louder the cheers, but the new material (from World Be Gone) is well received as it is just ‘perfect pop’. Be Careful What You Wish For and A Bitter Parting are bittersweet gems. The only weak songs on the album are the Kyliesque Love You To The Sky – but even that is irresistible in-the-moment- and Just A Little Love -which is perhaps Erasure-by-numbers.
I’m familiar with their back catalogue of hits as they are a family in-car favourite on rainy-day car-journeys to bring some feel-good sunshine to the miles. They get more plays than the Depeche Mode and Pet Shop Boys hits compilations somehow… and thinking about it have a consistency and soulfulness their contemporaries lack.
Over the course of their eighteen albums they have progressed from catchy pop to soulful introspection, brought out acoustic and country sets and on World Be Gone tackled gay history and social commentary in their own inimitable way.
Andy Bell is a star and a diva and camps it up riotously live. Most importantly though, he has a great voice.
On this new, World Beyond, post-classical re-interpretation of the World Be Gone album he is given a new setting for his vocals. Organic rather than electronic; woodwind, brass, strings and piano. It works to great effect on the majority of the songs. Still It’s Not Over – the Gay Rights History song -and Oh, What A World – the ‘political’ comment one are particularly impressive ( and the two which videos have been recorded for!) The latter is particularly a work of great songcraft – a lament to the lack of people-power in stopping the global slide to oblivion….
The music gives the songs more gravitas and Bell’s voice more space and prominence somehow (not that they are buried in the mix on the electronic album by any means). The collaboration just works really well. The Echo Collective just seem to intuitively know how to bring out the best in the songs without giving them orchestral bombast. They do have a solemnity at times and the pace is slow and stately. It is a contrast to the Erasure sound – but not drastically so. The ‘post-classical’ label is a weird one as it is by no means a jarring, avant-garde sound…. it’s just sounds ‘classical’ to my untrained ear…. but not in a middle-of-the-road Mantovani style!
World Beyond is a great listen (without prejudice) for the casual-fan of Erasure as well as the committed follower of their work. They seem to have exceeded even their own expectations of this ‘experimental’ project and created a real work of beauty. Whilst some experiments have inconclusive results, this time it has proved that whatever the format or arrangement, Erasure are a great songwriters and artists who are maybe undervalued in the world of ‘serious’ music and are much more than the camp 80’s hit-machine some see them as. They have soul and remain at the top of their game, if not an artistic peak with the two World Be.. albums.
I imagine Erasure could take the easy and more profitable options; Vince Clarke producing and re-mixing and Andy Bell becoming a judge on X-Factor or The Voice, but instead they continue to try new artistic ventures and challenge themselves and as a result, World Beyond is a triumph and should be recognized as the career-best pinnacle of Pop meets Art with Soul that it is.
(For the benefit of my regular readers) …and yes, as a ‘Punk/Rock’ writer, no one is more surprised than me at how much I am enamored with the band and their work, and how long it has taken me to fully appreciate them!
Erasure Official website
All words by Ged Babey