So, fine enough: You want to doll up Lubbock's prodigal son in the tutu Bell used to favor onstage. Sounds like a nice and, let's face it, inevitable idea; Buddy can withstand the makeover and, like, there's nothing wrong with it. But seventeen years after Wonderland, Erasure still sounds like a band stuck in the synthesized, synthetic, synful 1980s; there's still no meat on those flimsy Casio bones, no beat to help you break a sweat unless it's over 95 degrees. (It's like house, acid, big beat, jungle, and, uh, nu-metal never happened.)
The music's catchy like a hacking cough but no more permanent, so not one of these covers of tunes made famous by the likes of Elvis, the Ronettes, the Righteous Brothers, and Peter Gabriel (!) lasts longer than it takes to play it, if that. And Bell and Vince Clarke do manage to mangle all hell out of Holly's best tune, "True Love Ways," by rendering it perfectly unctuous. They don't seem to love it at all; if they did, they would have kept hands off.
Erasure's first U.S. release in five years won't convert the cynical or betray the faithful. It lives up to expectations, if that's what you call them: Bell tears up like every song's his last; Clarke fondles keybs like every song's his first, with the result sounding like the most earnest brand of discotheque camp (or is that kitsch?) this side of a Kylie Minogue video. For every bit of cool-to-the-touch brilliance (the "robot vocals" of "Video Killed the Radio Star," itself unnecessary but not unwelcome), the duo miss the point by miles; never needed to hear "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" again, especially when it's as soggy as gym shorts. Same goes for "Can't Help Falling in Love"; uh, wanna bet? "Solsbury Hill" wasn't even a good Peter Gabriel song to begin with, so it's hard to tell whether they bury or better it; after six listens, I'll go with the former, but don't care much either way. Still now that New Order, subject of an enormous yet oddly incomplete boxed set (see next review), is back to hot, everything old is New Wave again. Can't wait for the revival tour with Book of Love, Bronski Beat, Soft Cell, and Jimmy Somerville. Welcome back to the pleasuredome. Who knew it was still in business?