Record Review: Erasure – Wild!

Sire ‎| US | CD | 1989 | 9 26026-2

Erasure: Wild! US CD [1989]

  1. Piano Song (Instrumental)
  2. Blue Savannah
  3. Drama!
  4. How Many Times?
  5. Star
  6. La Gloria
  7. You Surround Me
  8. Brother And Sister
  9. 2,000 Miles
  10. Crown Of Thorns
  11. 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.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
This entry was posted in Core Collection, Record Review and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Record Review: Erasure – Wild!

  1. djjedredy says:

    I always thought “Chorus” was their pinnacle, like you I hated Drama! and sort of quite liked most of the album. Always have a soft spot for “I Say , I Say, I Say” – they really knew how to write a good pop song. “Erasure” (the self titled album) was overlong but again they were getting experimental and then came….”Cowboy” Ooops

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      djjedready – Wha…?! You didn’t like “Cowboy?” I happened across a copy of that for $1.00 a few years back and loved it. It was the first of their albums I’d heard since “I Say, I Say, I Say” and considered it the second best Erasure album after “Wild!” But I am open to hearing more Erasure from after the early 90s.

      Like

      • Tim says:

        “Run to the Sun” is a killer pop song. Sadly it came out in the era of awful remixes and has never had a decent extended mix. There’s certainly some good tracks on “I Say, I Say, I Say,”
        I wrote a lot of “Chorus” off years ago and re-visited it while cleaning the music files and found that it had aged very, very well. As I age I am less and less fond of bleep and bloop electronica but there’s still a lot to offer there. “Am I Right” is one of their all time best tracks in my book and I love the Grid mix of it.
        The best bits of Wild and Chorus are for me the golden age of Erasure.

        Like

  2. Tim says:

    The “You Surround Me” singles were real stealth bombs of quality and super hard to find for me. They were primarily a UK release weren’t they?

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Tim – Yeah, that was UK only. They got the best single. Not that “Star” and “Blue Savannah” were chopped liver. I just ordered a ton of UK CD singles from my friend Ron who was working at a UK exporter at the time. Lots of Erasure back catalog CD singles and those two. The other three US CD singles were a bounty of great tracks! As a Gina X Performance fanatic, I was thrilled to see someone cover “No G.D.M.!” Lots of supa-fine William Orbit mixes figured in the batch as well. I neglected to mention the production by Gareth Jones and Mark Saunders was a very interesting hybrid.

      Like

  3. negative1ne says:

    hi mr monk,
    well our trajectories for erasure took a very diverse path.

    i actually like their debut album wonderland, and all the
    singles and remixes from it. i didn’t have mtv, so there
    were no videos to tire of.

    in fact, this album to me is their pinnacle, and it’s been
    completely downhill since then. with a tiny bump up,
    with ‘the violet flame’ album. none of the other ones
    have made a dent. the circus was decent, but they
    lost me on innocents (horribly commercial) and the
    even worse wild (bland).
    ———————————————————————
    despite all this, i’ve sampled pretty much every album
    they’ve released. and also, bought various singles
    and remixes, trying to fill in as many gaps as possible,
    as most of the dance, electronic versions seem to be
    to my liking.
    ========================================

    going back to wild, i had the misfortune of hearing
    this, and the singles as they came out. i got the
    singles out of curiosity, and was ok with that.

    i even made an exception (as discussed before),
    that the razormaid mix of blue savannah was
    suprisingly and shockingly decent. i made a
    trade for a copy of the promo only mixes which
    were hard to find at the time:
    2 Blue Savannah (Remix/Edit) 3:52
    3 Blue Savannah (Out Of The Blue Mix) 6:45
    4 Blue Savannah (Blue Dub) 6:43

    Also liked the nod to Kraftwerk in the Der Deutsche 1 mix.

    Star had some good mixes, and the b-sides were fun too.
    Then we get to the pinnacle for me : The Supernature release.
    Yeah, it was the b-side to the ballady ‘you surround me’

    But it got its own extra limited edition snowflake cutout 12 inch.
    Erasure ‎– Supernature
    Label: Mute ‎– XL12MUTE99
    Format: Vinyl, 12″, 45 RPM
    Country: UK
    Released: 1989
    Genre: Electronic
    Style: Synth-pop
    Tracklist
    A1 Supernature
    A2 You Surround Me
    AA Supernature
    Credits
    Producer – Gareth Jones, Mark Saunders

    Notes
    Packaged in royal blue sleeve with “Supernature” written in script font and die-cut snowflake design on front, and velcroed opening on the back. This record is the extra limited remix of “You Surround Me”.

    Loved the william orbit mix, brilliant. The shorter versions were ok also.

    Flash forward to earlier this year, when one of the worst 30th anniversary
    budget deluxe releases came out: Horrible track selection, and very
    minimal mastering. Not worth it for hardcore collectors:

    Erasure ‎– Wild!
    Label: Mute ‎– LCDSTUMM75, BMG ‎– LCDSTUMM75
    Series: The Art Of The Album –
    Format: CD, Album, Reissue CD, Compilation
    All Media, Deluxe Edition, Remastered, 30th Anniversary Edition
    Country: UK & Europe
    Released: 29 Mar 2019
    Genre: Electronic, Pop
    Style: Synth-pop
    Tracklist
    Wild!
    1-1 Piano Song (Instrumental) 1:09
    1-2 Blue Savannah 4:27
    1-3 Drama! 4:04
    1-4 How Many Times? 3:17
    1-5 Star 3:53
    1-6 La Gloria 3:10
    1-7 You Surround Me 3:57
    1-8 Brother And Sister 3:24
    1-9 2,000 Miles 3:38
    1-10 Crown Of Thorns 3:59
    1-11 Piano Song 3:13

    B-Sides, Remixes and Rarities
    2-1 Sweet, Sweet Baby (The Moo-Moo Mix) 5:12
    *2-2 Drama! (Richard Norris Mix) 6:39
    2-3 Blue Savannah (Mark Saunders 12″ Mix) 6:51
    *2-4 Piano Song (Live At The London Arena) 3:34
    2-5 Runaround On The Underground (Remix) 6:38
    *2-6 How Many Times? (Alternative Mix) 3:16
    2-7 Supernature (Daniel Miller & Phil Legg Remix) 6:52
    2-8 Star (Soul Mix) 5:52
    2-9 No G.D.M. (Unfinished Mix) 4:24
    2-10 Drama! (Act 2) 5:37
    *2-11 Brother And Sister (Live At The London Arena) 3:32
    *2-12 Dreamlike State (7″ A Cappella Mix) 3:29
    2-13 You Surround Me (Gareth Jones Mix) 6:17
    2-14 91 Steps (6 Pianos Mix) 5:24
    Total Time: 1:51:48
    *new

    I’m getting it, just because its cheap, and it has a few
    exclusive tracks on it.

    later
    -1

    Like

  4. jsd says:

    Interesting to see the diversity of opinion on Erasure. I never really rated Wild much but your sentence “The next Erasure album was not as good” made me go look at their discography to find out that next one is. Chorus! aka my favorite Erasure album. Damn. Having said all that, I have to say that I find most of their albums spotty. They’re really more of a singles act to me. To each their own though.

    Like

  5. Taffy says:

    Indeed, fascinating to see how the Erasure interest is all over the board. I just loved Wonderland when it appeared, and while my fandom hasn’t wavered, I think a real pinnacle was reached with Chorus. But I have a dear friend for whom Erasure is his all-time favorite act, and his absolute most treasured album is their sprawling self-titled one from 1995 (I think it’s a bit of a snooze, but it is a fan favorite). I’ve also never missed an Erasure tour since the Innocents was released, and Andy Bell remains one of the best showmen I’ve ever seen. His energetic joy is contagious.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Taffy – Yes, it’s clear that Erasure is many things to many people, but there’s a definite trend in the comments for the “Chorus” album. That one never grabbed me, though I swear I bought every note issued from it in various countries at the time. Maybe it’s time to revisit it?

      I HAVE missed two Erasure tours. I actually had tickets for the “Wild!” tour at Orlando Arena but gave them to the friend I was planning to go with because The Primitives announced a gig the same night in Ratona Beach! Another friend and I were huge fans of the second album, “Pure,” especially, so we trekked to Daytona trying to find the venue in the pre-GIS/internet era, and FAILED. Beaten down, we trekked back to Orlando, and to salvage the evening I offered to buy us both tickets to Erasure, but the show had begun [possibly just the opener was on] and the box office WOULD NOT sell us tickets! Fascists. I later heard from friends who did get in that the 18,000 seater [?] was practically empty for our heroes.

      The second Erasure tour I missed was when they were coming to Asheville at the Orange Peel [1100 cap.] and I though, “now I’ll see Erasure,” but we ended up visiting friends in Chapel Hill when the gig went down. Ironically, were were visiting the same guy who I had blown off Erasure in 1990 to see The Primitives with!

      Like

      • Taffy says:

        LOVE the Prims, but I gotta say that the Wild! tour was just phenomenal. Saw it at a 2-3000 capacity theatre in Boston, insane that they would’ve been booked into a Florida arena. Talk about overreaching (presumably by a zealous promoter)…

        Like

  6. Nortley says:

    The only Erasure album that did much of anything for me was “The Innocents” and even if seemed to have some filler (and I was largely indifferent to the two hits from the album.) Otherwise a few tracks now and then grabbed my attention but I found “Wild” a big disappointment after “The Innocents.”

    I guess, like the Monk, I just saw the duo as an attempt by Vince Clarke to recreate Yaz(oo). Unlike the Monk “Upstairs At Eric’s” was a big deal among my circle of friends back in the day (save for the two “experimental” tracks) and I do consider the second album “You And Me Both” to be woefully underrated. Andy Bell certainly sounds a lot like Alison Moyet but the consistency of the songs of Erasure just don’t live up to the promise of the best of the two Yaz(oo) albums.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Nortley – I jumped right on “Upstairs At Eric’s” but only ever had the US version on LP/CD with “Situation.” Which we will remember was a B-Side to “Don’t Go” in the UK. In America it was the hit A-Side, and “Tuesday” was the song left off the album. I’ve never heard it. As much as I bought Depeche Mode and Yaz[oo] albums in ’81-’82 I never rated them very highly. For me the were a definite 2nd/3rd tier act. Next to the likes of Ultravox/OMD/JAPAN/Human League/Visage, they barely pushed my buttons.

      Like

      • Tim says:

        The general trend here is people being in on the early Vince Clarke sound……or not.
        I’m in the not camp. Not a fan of Speak and Spell, any Yazoo, Wonderland is hit or miss for me and sounded dated when it was new. I like a lot of later career Allison Moyet, mid-career Erasure and Mode from Broken Frame to Songs of Faith and Devotion is a generally reliable arc of their output. Erasure was one of the few 80s acts where their output at the end of the decade was superior to their initial efforts!

        Like

        • postpunkmonk says:

          Tim – Yeah, “A Broken Frame” was a revelation for me. I had bought the two singles up front and thought that “See You” was in the mold of the first album, albeit more musically sophisticated. “Meaning Of Love” was a step backward, but all was forgiven when I got “A Broken Frame.” I felt that Martin Gore was a more complex writer than Clarke. By far. And I rode the DM bus through “Violator.” Then I just stopped. When SOFAD appeared three years later it did zero for me.

          Like

          • Mathmandan says:

            I had the exact same reaction to SOFAD. Violator marked the final era of my DM fandom, and it was pretty intense before that. I hardly pay attention to their output now.

            Despite my preference for early Vince Clarke, I thought “A Broken Frame” was excellent, and still do. Here’s a fun listen: Greek band Marsheaux lovingly remade the entire album and did a fantastic job at it.

            Like

            • postpunkmonk says:

              Mathmandan – Was aware of the Marshaux cover of ABF and wholly support the notion, though I’ve not heard it. Dunno if any Marshaux is on CD or not. I suspect that it may be not.

              Like

              • mathmandan says:

                I do have their cover of ABF on CD, as well as a second CD with an extended version of it. I’ve also got a CD-EP they did of “Monument” and a CD-Single of “Get the Balance Right.” I think you can stream all these tracks as well.

                Like

          • Tim says:

            I have mixed feelings about that one, you know I jokingly (or maybe not so much jokingly) call it Songs of Passive Aggression. Sonically it’s really good but when you marry the lyrics with the contemporary real world toxicity of the person singing them, it’s just not a pretty picture. They get so very hit and miss after that one. There’s some good singles, like “Home” is one of the best quieter songs that Martin Gore has had his hands on since “Somebody” and “It’s No Good” is classic DM, a lot of the rest of it’s parent album doesn’t cling to my attention at all.

            Didn’t Alan Wilder split around the time of SoF&D? I’ve been talking about the sonics of early Vince Clarke and Alan Wilder is/was indispensable to the aural alchemy of what I consider to be good DM.

            Like

            • Mathmandan says:

              For my personal tastes, Alan Wilder was a necessary component for DM. I have found their releases so uncompeling for many years now, with one exception: I thought the track “Peace” was pretty amazing.

              Like

              • postpunkmonk says:

                Mathmandan – I bought “The Best Of Depeche Mode” CD/DVD bundle to hear the handful of newer songs and get the DVD for clips not on the late 90s DM DVD video album ( ver 1) that I had. The new material on that was inconclusive. I don’t think that “Peace” was on it.

                Like

            • postpunkmonk says:

              Tim – Yes, Alan Wilder left after “Violator.” As much as Martin Gore wrote good songs, I think he needed Wilder to be his creative foil in arranging the songs. Gahan sang them and as far as we know, Andy Fletcher was just there for the ride.

              Like

  7. Mathmandan says:

    It’s fascinating to see the differences in taste. For me, “Upstairs at Eric’s” is a shoe-in for a desert island disc, if I was only allowed to take ten with me. And for Erasure, “Wonderland” is probably my favorite. Perhaps that is a consequence of the peak Vince Clarke for me being Yazoo.

    And “Drama?” I love that track! Especially cranked up loud. I much prefer it to “Blue Savannah.” It’s my second favorite on the “Wild” LP. The first favorite? “Brother and Sister.” I found the next album, “Chorus,” an improvement over “Wild.”

    Back when these songs were being released I never made much effort to see the videos, and in retrospect I’m glad. I think it would have distracted me from soaking in the music on its own. I recall several instances where I saw a music video by happenstance and wished I never had. In some cases it “cheapened” a song for me.

    Like

  8. I think I’m much more of a Vince fan than the rest of you lot, since I enjoyed the innocent simplicity of Speak and Spell and also enjoyed a lot of post-Clarke DM (though I got off the bus earlier than some). I enjoyed Clarke’s work on The Assembly (pity he never saw it through, but Martyn Ware certainly ran with that concept), and I appreciated Yazoo (though I like Alison even better now).

    All of the early Erasure albums are very enjoyable IMO, but Wild! is arguably their pinnacle (well, not counting Abba-esque, which was so great it spawned a reply EP and not one but two ABBA tribute bands that used electronics to restyle the catalog!). I liked Chorus very much, did not care for Cowboy at all, and it’s been a steady decline in the hit-miss ratio ever since — though they are still entirely capable of putting out a good song or two per album, on average, and I still keep an ear out. Andy’s actually a better singer now than he was then … it’s Vince that no longer seems to know where he wants to go with it anymore.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.