Andy Bell: Torsten The Bareback Saint – album review

Andy Bell – Torsten The Bareback Saint (SFE Records)

CD/DL

Out now

9/10

Erasure vocalist, Andy Bell, releases his fourth solo album, Torsten the Bareback Saint. Louder Than War’s Paul Scott-Bates reviews.

Interesting perhaps, that two halves of two of the UK’s most popular synth duos should both release song-cycle albums within a few weeks of each other. Marc Almond’s Ten Plagues, an extraordinary piece of work of just voice and piano is followed by Torsten The Bareback Saint, 22 tracks comprising full instrumentation and a chance for Andy Bell to show what an underrated voice he has. And he does.

This album, to be performed live at the Edinburgh Festival from 5-16 August, is possibly Bell’s finest vocal outing. Strong and well-tuned, his voice is nothing short of superb and the songs, written by Barney Ashton (lyrics) and Christopher Frost & Simon Bayliss (music), are perfect for him. Where Torsten excels and succeeds is in his ability for each track to be heard individually and to still sound relevant.

 

Torsten is currently 108 years old, sort of. A polysexual teenager throughout most of his life he has a vibrant body with the mind of a withering soul. The tale of this Dorian Gray-esque character sees his many lovers, male and female, slowly abandon him and die.

It can be crude at times, but that is often a strength as Torsten recalls various scenarios from his past. Although tracks such as Freshly Buggered, Vagina and Mobile Fucked are renamed or shortened for the track listing it takes nothing away from the power and feeling behind the tale.

Fountain Of Youth sees Bell in fine fettle as he co-habits with a prostitute until she leaves on Torsten’s motorbike. As I Prepare To Take My Life is a heart-wrenching album closer and This Gay Thing Isn’t Working sees Torsten battle with his sexuality.

Torsten The Bareback Saint is as ground-breaking as it is entertaining and a remarkable piece of work. Just as VCMG seemed to re-ignite fellow Erasure genius Vince Clarke, so Andy Bell will walk away from this album with his head held high and chest puffed out knowing that they are both at the top of their game.

Andy Bell will wow the Edinburgh Festival with a well chosen and written set of songs, and a voice which probably sounds the best it ever has.

~
The Andy Bell website is here. You can follow him on Twitter here and like on Facebook here.
There’s also a website for Torsten here and a Facebook page here.

All words by Paul Scott-Bates. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found here. Paul’s website is hiapop Blog. Paul is working hard to save Radio Lancashire’s On The Wire, the BBCs longest running alternative music programme. Follow him on twitter as @saveonthewire for all On The Wire news or follow hiapop Blog on Twitter, @hiapop.

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