Erasure's new album, Tomorrow's World.
A SLUG Online Exclusive Review
I’ve been listening to early Erasure as of late, in particular, the recent and quite excellent import-only reissues of Wonderland and The Circus. About a week after those arrived, I was graciously given a review copy of their brand new album, entitled Tomorrow’s World. It has been an interesting juxtaposition to hear these early recordings compared to their brand new music for 2011, especially when you consider the 25 year gap between them. While my reviews for these superb reissues will be published separately, Tomorrow’s World—and its fantastic premise of an updated sound—has taken over my listening as of late. Working with a new producer—UK wunderkind Vincent Frank, AKA Frankmusik—has greatly influenced the legendary synth pop group’s sound structure, but not their infinitely catchy melodies or their core song craft, both of which remain as potent as ever. Written and partially demoed in New York, London and Vince Clarke’s home studio in Maine beginning in the fall of 2009, the recording began this year in Los Angeles, Maine and London, with Clarke adding an extra layer to the mix from his collection of analog synths as the final piece of the process. The results are staggeringly good and at times shocking—while you know this is Erasure proper, it doesn’t always sound like the Erasure of yesteryear, and that’s a huge compliment.
The reason that listeners will immediately recognize this is as Erasure, of course, are those seraphic vocals of Mr. Andrew Bell. He has rarely sounded better and Frank really seems to appreciate the importance of keeping his voice central to the mix. The opening bars of the first track, “Be With You,” have Clarke’s unmistakable synth pop-colored stamp on them, but with a slight twist. There is an updated electronic sound—which one assumes arrives via programming—and a divine beat that join the synths almost immediately as Bell’s exuberant vocals are introduced. Witness the pure delicacy of his singing on the opening lines of “Fill Us With Fire,” which for a few seconds sounds like one of their signature mid-tempo cuts, but elevates itself to another plane with the programming. It is precisely that edge that seems to be the heart of the new sound. The lovely “What Will I Say When You’re Gone” is perhaps closer to a ballad (at least vocally and lyrically), but the complex drum program and twisted keys that run throughout it again change it.
The lack of mid-tempo cuts is a surprising discovery upon the first listen, as is the album’s relatively short running time. Despite Erasure being known for short, affecting pop anthems—and there is not a single track over four minutes here—generally their albums tend to run longer. Not to imply that Erasure have really ever repeated themselves—as lazy journalists have accused them of in the past—but rather the faster pace is something of a revelation. The exception is the soul-tinged “You’ve Got To Save Me Right Now” (or “Save Me” as it was called this summer during their Total Pop! tour, in addition to being the only new song showcased on this leg of their current tour) that highlights Bell’s bluesier side and is complimented by the addition of a choir. The real highlights, however, are in the next few tracks, especially the insanely catchy “A Whole Lotta Love Run Riot,” which chronicles the rise and demise of an unnamed starlet. Bell’s vocals are completely free and filtered—at times he whisper sings and eventually sings in French, all while Clarke’s ultra hypnotic bass line runs joyously alongside him. Personally, I really hope this ends up being a single, as I’d love to hear a remix (or two) of it.
Speaking of singles, Tomorrow’s World’s first is the delicious roar entitled “When I Start To (Break It All Down)” with its engaging bridges of Bell pleading “What did I do...did I deserve this/have I been careless with you, baby?” as Clarke creates a flute-like lead for its great chorus of Bell’s anthem-like vocals. The song has been aptly described by Bell as sounding like Tears For Fears, and “Shout” comes to mind during its choruses. It is also the perfect introduction to the new sound’s general direction. The high continues on the sultry stomper “I Lose Myself” and the synths here are prominent and punctuate Bell’s defiant and humorous lyrics. Next up is another potential single: the entrancing “Then I Go Twisting.” Frankmusik literally twists and distorts both Clarke’s music and Bell’s voice, the beat galloping alongside the filtered vocal in perfect harmony. The party ends far too soon (for this fan, anyway) with the ominous-sounding “Just When I Thought It Was Ending,” but never fear: this is the type of album that just begs to be replayed.
Tomorrow’s World is tentatively scheduled for US release on October 4 on Mute, but first the band will be bringing the party back to Kingsbury Hall on Wednesday, September 28 for their first North American tour in nearly four years. Opening for them will be none other than the new album’s producer, Frankmusik. The show is close to selling out, so grab your tickets now!