One of the most successful and globally adored partnerships in pop, Erasure celebrates 25 years together with a fabulous new album, Tomorrow’s World (2011). After selling 25 million albums and scoring more than 40 hit singles, Vince Clarke and Andy Bell are back on peak form with their fourteenth studio album, a masterpiece of warm-blooded electro-pop and emotionally charged electro-soul that sounds as glossy, contemporary and exciting as any of their younger chart acolytes. With synthetic melodies and electronic beats as dominant as ever, Erasure’s timeless anthems of hedonism and heartache are set to strike a universal chord once more.
Returning from a four-year sabbatical, Andy and Vince sound refreshed, revitalized and rebooted on Tomorrow’s World. To produce the album, they enlisted the services of rising British electro-pop star Vincent “Frankmusik” Frank, the one-man-band whose glittering portfolio of remixes and collaborations includes Lady Gaga, Pet Shop Boys and Ellie Goulding. Currently based in LA, where he has his own studio, Frank was born in 1985 - the year that Erasure formed.
Vince explains, “We chose Frank because he is someone who has a different approach to the music, who is sympathetic to synthesizers, and incredibly keen. He told me the music scene in London was just too small for him, so he made a conscious decision and moved to LA, with nothing! He just really likes that American pop thing - that whole Lady Gaga, full-on wall of sound.”
The combination of Erasure’s timeless songwriting and Frank’s lush, heavily processed studio sound makes for a gloriously fertile musical mix. Andy and Vince explode with energy on disco-friendly love missiles like “Be With You” and “Fill Us With Fire”, euphoric declarations of love wrapped in liquid shimmers of state-of-the-art electro-pop. Andy cites Kylie, A-Ha, Robyn and The Killers as influences on these tunes but they could equally stand alongside the most forward-thinking dance-pop artists of today, from Katy B to Lady Gaga to David Guetta. This is 21st century party music made with wit, wisdom and warmth.
As with all Erasure albums, Tomorrow’s World contains bittersweet introspection and sophisticated melancholy, too. The gorgeous break-up anthem “What Will I Say When You’re Gone?” borrows from contemporary post-dub-step sonics in its staccato musical framework, while the sumptuous relationship post-mortem “When I Start To (Break It All Down)” already sounds like a future stadium-filling classic in the making. Andy reveals his brooding crooner side on “Just When I Thought It Was Ending”, but also unleashes the full blast of his gospel-diva talents on “You’ve Got To Save Me Right Now”, a mighty electro-gospel hymn built around a whirling waltz-time rhythm.
But for all the heartbreak and uncertainty on Tomorrow’s World, sunny euphoria and romantic optimism are still the brightest colors in Erasure’s musical rainbow. Even when the hedonistic rush is tinged with desperation, as in the doomed-diva chronicle “A Whole Lotta Love Run Riot” or the late-night confessional “Then I Go Twisting”, operatic vocals and soaring melodies are still shooting for the stars above. Blasted skywards by Frank’s shiny, supercharged, ultra-glossy production, both tracks sound like massive Ibiza trance-pop anthems for the long hot summer of 2012.
In the four years since their last studio album The Light at The End of the World, Erasure have been busy with multiple outside projects. Vince reunited with Alison Moyet to reactivate their legendary synth-soul duo Yazoo, rebuilt his studio at his house in Maine, and picked up an Outstanding Song Collection prize at the Ivor Novello awards in recognition of his 30 years as a songwriter. Meanwhile, Andy released his acclaimed solo album Non-Stop and lent his powerhouse voice to the TV reality show Pop Star to Opera Star. But even in their extended gap year, Erasure was never far from the charts, releasing their double retrospective Total Pop!: The First 40 Hits in 2009.
This solid-gold songwriting chemistry is key to why Erasure has survived and thrived for over 25 years. Andy and Vince still write the same way they always have - together in the same room, face to face, waiting for inspiration to strike. Fortunately, it always does.
“It is just spur of the moment, we can’t write separately” Vince explains. “We are always in a studio with guitar and piano”, adds Andy. “It has got be the actual physical thing of us being there and doing it. But the songwriting is always in flux. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s hard.”
“I think it’s getting harder”, says Vince, “but that’s probably because we’re a bit more picky. We tend to write more ideas than songs now. The way we used to work, we’d have one or two or three ideas, then piece them together into a song. Now we have five or six or seven ideas, so it gets more confusing. But there is still an incredible amount of satisfaction once you’ve finished a song.”
Behind this musical partnership, of course, lies one of the most enduring friendships in pop. In more than 25 years together, Vince insists he and Andy have never had a single serious argument, and always respected each other’s creative input into Erasure.
“When we’re together we are really together, but when were apart we don’t talk to each other,” Vince explains. “I think that’s part of it. And also we are both pretty low key, neither of us gets particularly precious about ideas. We don’t argue about album titles or anything.”
“I just don’t see why there is any need for drama,” says Andy, ironically one of the most flamboyantly dramatic frontman in pop. “Vince and I are very similar people really. We are quite monkish, quite Zen about what we do. We definitely share sense of humor, but I also think politics is important. We don’t talk about it that often, but we both know what’s fair and not fair, who’s a devil and who isn’t.”
Erasure may have been synth-pop pioneers in the 1980s and 1990s, but they never rest on their laurels. Unlike many of their former chart peers, Andy and Vince have consistently avoided the creative death knell of nostalgia tours. Both are huge fans of contemporary electronic music and club sounds. They remain a vital, forward-thinking force in 21st century pop.
“In the 1980s and early 1990s, if you counted the number of purely electronic bands in the charts, there wasn’t that much really,” Vince says with a smile. “Now it’s like 90 per cent! Who would have thought that? This whole new electronic scene is really exciting, and I don’t think anybody sounds like the music from back then, just because they are using synthesizers. Erasure has never been about nostalgia. We are not thinking about records we made in the 1980s, even if other people are. We are thinking about the next record - and future records.”
After more than 25 years together, Tomorrow’s World is the sound of Erasure rebooted, rejuvenated and fully recharged. Timeless and universal, they never look back. Such is the essence of great pop - a glorious celebration of right here, right now. Come and join the party.