Release Date: Sep 23, 2014
Record label: Mute
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Dance-Pop, Club/Dance
You don’t make your music career last 30 years without doing a little bit of tweaking along the way. British synthpop duo Erasure are hardly the Beatles when it comes to pulling off an artistic overhaul, but they’ve managed to strike just the right balance between changing yet staying the same. This has especially been the case as of late. After some flirtations with experimentation that not every fan was on board with, Andy Bell and Vince Clarke have taken baby steps towards reclaiming the bright and breezy pop sound that made them so loved in the ‘80s.
You have to hand it to Erasure. The path of acrimonious break-up, followed by money-spinning reformation (or, that most undignified of routes for yesterday’s heroes, a spot on ITV’s The Big Reunion) isn’t one for them. Instead, they’ve quietly spent the last 28 years simply creating a solid back catalogue of decent albums, and while The Violet Flame probably won’t herald any chart-bothering return to the glory days of Circus, it’s another example of what they do best.
I must admit I was surprised to find out that The Violet Flame was the 16th studio album from UK electropop duo Erasure in a recording career approaching 30 years. I associate the band with its heyday of the mid-’80s to early ’90s, when the hits came thick and fast and singer Andy Bell’s “proud to be gay” stance readily fueled headlines. In truth, I hadn’t heard that much from Erasure over the past decade or so.
Following a holiday album (2013's Snow Globe) with this "return to form" album means veteran duo Erasure are now on the cliched career revival path for aging pop stars, but maybe it's just by chance. Make that "likely," as The Violet Flame gets right down to dancey, inspired business on its opening "Dead of Night," a track that pumps with the beat of any given single off the duo's great 1989 album Wild!. Classic lyrics from Andy Bell speak to the morality play that club night can be ("Too many times you're forgiven/Now you cry like you're the victim") then the chorus is like a pair of bright red cha-cha heels (a joyful stuttering of "D-d-d-dead of night") that won't be ignored.
The most important thing one can say about Erasure in 2014 is that they were right all along. Faced with a steady stream of rockist sneers and elitist dismissals that would have compelled weaker or more reasonable artists to dive headfirst into a woodchipper, the boys just kept on dancing. Despite baggy, grunge, and every other trend worth hopping on for a hot minute, Erasure played the long game, pressing towards a future indirectly influenced, yet undeniably informed by them.