Thursday, 17 October 2013

ELECTRONIC INSPIRATIONS PART 1: ERASURE - CHORUS

An occasional series where I review non Depeche Mode albums that have influenced me...

Chorus is Erasure's finest album. It contains ten near perfect tracks, all of which are stunning examples of synthpop, electronic pop or whatever you want to label it. Like most people who grew up when I grew up I was a fan of Erasure thanks to their seemingly unstoppable run of fantastic singles in the mid to late 1980's. For me they went off the boil with Wild! which was just too mixed. There are some great songs there (Drama! , Piano Song) but overall it wasn't up to the standard of The Innocents and I lost a bit of interest in them. Chorus reignited that interest to the extent that I still believe it is one of the most important electronic music albums of all time.



Chorus was released on 14 October on LP, cassette, cd and limited cd boxset, having been preceded by two of the band's finest singles, the title track Chorus and Love To Hate You. Chorus opens the album and you're immediately struck by the purely analogue sound that Vince had spent the post Wild years creating. He actually avoided the use of MIDI throughout which gives the album its unique sound for me. Vince is the master of all things analogue. The song starts and synths whoosh and roar, bleeps bleep, there's the odd noise like radar on a submarine and Andy sings about fishes, birds, bones and much more. As with all the great Erasure singles it's over the top and fantastic for it. Even writing about track one now I'm taken back to my last year at school where my friend John Harrower and I would try out best to dominate the common room tape player with this album, Kraftwerk's The Mix and Doolittle by the Pixies. Odd mix but it worked.

Chorus single cover


(Part of the point of these blogs is pure reminiscence on my part so you'll have to forgive the occasional sentimental diversion)

What follows Chorus are two of the great Erasure album tracks. As well as firing out perfect pop singles the band's albums were always full of great material - Love Is A Loser, Spiraling, My Heart So Blue, Heart of Stone, Piano Song and so on. Here, Waiting For The Day and Joan equal if not better those tracks. Killer choruses and music so perfect it's actually ridiculous. Every track on this album was a potential number one single with perhaps the exception, rather oddly, being one of the singles Breath of Life which follows at track 4. A decent song yes but the weakest on the album for me. If it's a great single you're after then the next track Am I Right? provides that. It's a heartbreakingly perfect analogue synthy ballad of Godlike proportions basically and that is no exaggeration. What a song. Am I Right? was released as a four track ep with three very good b-sides. I remember (here I go again....) seeing an advert in Melody Maker on a Saturday morning for the limited edition 12" of the single featuring mixes of the ep tracks by folk like Moby and getting up and getting the bus to Dumfries just to get it. Simpler times. Am I Right? is one of the great Erasure singles and if you like electronic pop music you should like this.

Am I Right? single cover


Chorus may have been a fairly over the top single but it was Leonard Cohen-esque compared to track 6 and the album's second single Love To Hate You. An entire factory of kitchen sinks was thrown in to give us a bewildering yet magical track. Despite Andy's clear influence here Vince is still quite rightly bleeping away throughout. Turns The Love To Anger and the spooky yet reassuringly bleepy Siren Song follow. The latter was the opening track on the band's spectacular Phantasmagorical Tour during which Andy would ride on in a mechanical swan whilst Vince sat in a sort of mini tank filled with synths. Seriously. The gigs at that time were great. Each was almost three hours long with all ten Chorus tracks played among many others punctuated by a break in which there was a bingo session. Reading that back even I think I made that up but I didn't.

Love To Hate You single cover


The album ends with two more classic Erasure album tracks. Firstly we have the could-easily-have been-number-1 Perfect Stranger before the album closes with the beautiful Home. 10 songs, no fillers, Vince going analogue daft and the whole thing working as an album from start to finish. Perfection.

It's not and probably never has been cool to like Erasure but sod that frankly. To dismiss them because they're too poppy or whatever is short sighted. They may have lost their way a bit recently but for a period they and the Pet Shop Boys WERE the charts with Erasure's own golden period peaking with with Chorus. The following Abba-Esque e.p. and albums I Say, I Say, I Say and Erasure must all be sought out too. There are many bands that you could like more than Erasure and there are many different types of electronic music to explore, but every so often you have to give in and just accept that perfect electronic pop music should have a place in your life. Erasure give you that and if you're picking one album to fill the place in your life they occupy, it has to be Chorus.

7 comments:

  1. I could listen to Home again and again and again. Chorus is to Erasure what Violator is to Depeche Mode - a band at the peak of their power and creative output. Still loads of great stuff to follow, but it's like a golden moment when everything is right. Maybe that's got to do with the age I was at the time. I almost felt untouchable as a fan of electronic music that no one else was 'getting'. Bravo for a good reminder. Chorus going on after John Grant (which is playing just now). ;)

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  2. Great read, great album. Loved this when it came out too! Turns The Love To Anger so good, along with Am I RIght, But I think you're being unkind on I Say I Say I Say, and "Erasure" the album both great after this! Then I think there was a dip. Just got given a stream of new Snow Globe for a review I'm doing. Enjoying it.

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  3. Thanks! Good point re IS x3 and Erasure - do love both but for me they don't hit the heights of Chorus. How is Snowglobe sounding?

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  4. Great read, wonderful album. Chorus is, if not the best, one of the best electronic albuns ever made, along with Dare (Human League) and Non Stop Erotic Cabaret (Soft Cell)!!! Alex from Brazil

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  5. Thanks Alex - glad you enjoyed it

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  6. What was the inspiration for the song titled "Joan"? is Joan a person, friend, family member? Thanks.

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