Erasure • Wonderland

Mute/Intervention Records IR-009
180-gram LP
1986/2016

Music

Sound

by Roy Gregory | March 9, 2017

ntervention Records is rapidly gaining a reputation for doing things not just differently but better than the rest. But even by its eclectic, music-first philosophical standards, Intervention's latest choice for reissue may well have the audiophile community scratching its collective, progressively thinning hairline.

On the face of it, an album of unashamedly electro pop spawned from the 1980s gay-club scene might not seem like a surefire winner, but Erasure wasn’t just another lonely computer nerd sitting in his closet. Even amongst that select group of musicians who seem to be awash with an embarrassment of hooks and earworms that you just can’t get out of your mind, Vince Clark ranks as something of a phenomenon. Creative force behind Depeche Mode’s seminal 1981 debut Speak And Spell and the insanely catchy "Just Can’t Get Enough" (the band were never the same once he left), he quickly moved on to form Yazoo (Yaz in the US) with Alison Moyet, churning out two albums and pop classics "Don’t Go" and "Only You" in equally short order.

With Moyet going solo, Clark again moved on, with a couple of side projects before repeating the synth-pop/stellar-vocal recipe, forming Erasure in 1985 with Andy Bell as a result of a Melody Maker ad. In an uncharacteristically tardy start, it took the pair almost a year to release their first UK chart hit -- but that merely distracts from the fact that the band had already broken big on the Euro club scene, "Who Needs Love Like That" a club classic to this day. When the debut album, Wonderland, arrived, it was packed with effortlessly catchy pop tunes, but in amongst the insistent dance beats of "Who Needs…", "Cry So Easy", "Senseless" and the stunning "Oh, L’Amour" there was also the haunting, sparse beauty of "My Heart . . . So Blue," a match for anything produced by Clark’s remarkable collaboration with Moyet.

The developmental arc, from Depeche Mode to Erasure, mirrored Clark’s increasing comfort with his own sexuality, putting him in the vanguard of an emerging gay synth-pop scene and amidst the likes of The Communards and Pet Shop Boys. It also brought a new confidence to his compositions and arrangements, a new sense of purpose and poignancy to his lyrics, a progression that arguably peaked with Wonderland. Pick up any of the albums Vince Clark was involved in through the early '80s and they’re packed with pop-perfect melodies and hooks, but his first outing with Erasure is still the pick of the bunch.

Throw in Intervention’s customary cut and press (courtesy of Kevin Gray and RTI) that take the sound of the original flexi-disc LPs, adds the sort of bandwidth, bottom-end weight, energy and attack, clarity of line and vocal purity that make you think you are listening to a Yello album, and you’ve got one musically potent record.

If you ever wondered how modern dance music managed to emerge from the Teutonic rigor of Kraftwerk, here’s your answer -- or you could just fancy a slab of genuinely uplifting beats to get those endorphins flowing. Rhythmically challenged dad-dancers and po-faced audiophiles everywhere should rejoice: when Intervention Records gives Vince Clark the treatment, even the walking dead kick up their heels.

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