Erasure: Wild! US CD 
- Piano Song (Instrumental)
- Blue Savannah
- How Many Times?
- La Gloria
- You Surround Me
- Brother And Sister
- 2,000 Miles
- Crown Of Thorns
- Piano Song
I have to admit that I was cool to the charms of Vince Clarke’s Erasure for many years. When “Who Needs Love Like That” appeared on MTV’s 120 Minutes, I got a little tired of its campy video getting played each week for months. I had not been convinced by the first Depeche Mode album. Then I had a vote of “no confidence” from the first Yaz[oo] album. So much so that I never heard the second one. So Erasure had not hit me at all… until the release of “Wild!” in autumn of 1989.
It wasn’t down to the pre-release single. “Drama” had gotten lots of play on 120 Minutes [as was common] but the slightly dour number still did not convince. I did find it humorous that the band had enlisted the members of Jesus + Mary Chain to provide the deep-voiced shouts of “guilty!” in the chorus since Bell considered that part of the song out of his comfort zone. The razzleberry-flavored synths in the song’s cheerful middle eight stood at sharp relief to the rest of the song and provided a little contrast, but overall. This was not my favorite Erasure single.
A month or two after the “Drama” single was released, I was in my local Peaches buying CDs [what else?] and the in-store play was the new Erasure album in its entirety. In a once-in-a-lifetime event, by the time it was half over, I had grabbed a copy of the CD to walk out of there with! The album had a deceptive opening with “Piano Song [instrumental]” a brief instrumental intro by no means identifiable as the work of Erasure. From seeing their videos for the previous four years, I had [perhaps unfairly] stamped Erasure as another Vince Clarke Hi-NRG/synthpop project with a singer who was trying his best to sound like Alison Moyet. Not a requirement.
But the next song, “Blue Savannah” was definitely Erasure. That’s when I surmised that they were playing “Wild!” in the Peaches. Now this was an amazing song! It was a gorgeous melody with a hint of African hi-life in the complex middle eight. I also liked the dominance of the piano and the flute-like synths were just perfect. Andy Bell’s vocal was expressive and emotional; a real winner of a song. It was the second of the handful of wonderful singles form this album.
“How Many Times?” was the closest thing to a shrinking violet on this album. The minimal ballad had prominent rhythm box and synth “guitar” with Bell hanging back to foster a sense of intimacy as opposed to his usual brashness. Then it was perfectly followed by the ebullient “Star.” Perhaps the most energetic and positive sounding doomsday song I’d ever heard. It had a slight Latin flair with more flute-like synth and [possibly] acoustic guitars rubbing shoulders with the Moroderesque synths. For a song about death from above as possibly a metaphor for a breakup, it’s packed with energy.
Then the Latin seed of “Star” became a full-fledged cactus of mariachi [is that a metaphor?] with the ultra-campy “La Gloria.” Half sung in Spanish, the synthetic castanets drove this one along at a giddy, breakneck pace. After three extremely gay minutes, it was all over; a whirlwind of gaudy spectacle with lively lyrics from Bell. In another brilliant bit of pacing this outburst was followed by another slowly paced ballad; the lush and affectionate “You Surround Me.” It was at this point I think, that I was completely won over by what I was hearing in the record store. The pacing of this one was just spectacular. The way that Mr. Bell rose an octave on the end of every other line in the chorus was stunning, and the slow, methodical synths set his performance off in the best way possible.
As the album wound down, the throwback of “2,000 Miles” sounded like one last dip on the Yazoo playbook, with Bell singing in his lowest register and coming off like Alison Moyet for one last time. Even the “done me wrong” bluesy character of the lyric sounded like something from her pen instead. Then the penultimate “Crown Of Thorns” surprised me by drawing on English folk traditions for its mannered synthpop. It almost sounded a bit like Enya. Then the vocal full length version of “Piano Song” ended the album on an intimate, pensive note.
I had to admit that Erasure had been driving the stylistic bus all over the map for this album. It was surprisingly eclectic in the best possible way. The only song that was as campy as my mental image of the band was “La Gloria,” and that was so much fun it would be churlish to complain. Better, the ballads here were best-of-breed works that were touching and suffused with beauty and sensuality. It was an album packed with hit singles [two UK top ten and two UK top 20 singles] and the deep cuts were excellent foils for the singles. There was no dead space here; just a band that seemed to me like they were peaking after several years of more tentative work.
After this album, I was no longer a tentative Erasure fan. I worked my way back through their catalog and for the next four years bought everything that I could from them. The B-sides on their CD singles were spectacular in their own right and I soaked up all of them with the three US Sire editions [“Drama!,” “Blue Savannah,” “Star”] from “Wild!” throwing what was usually two UK CD singles worth of material onto a single BPI mocking disc that was only $5.99. An exception were the two UK CD singles for “You Surround Me” that were the usual $20 worth of import music, but so worth it! The next Erasure album was not as good and the one after that was where I got off of the Erasure bus. But for the four years following this album, Erasure joined my core collection of bands with a vengeance.
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