By 1991, Erasure were pretty much at the top of their game. From their humble (read “rubbish”) debut in 1986 with Wonderland, they had gained legendary status with the string of excellent singles from their second album The Circus (1987). By the time the first of their classic albums The Innocents appeared in 1988, they were pretty much guaranteed a number one with any album they released. Sure enough, 1989’s oddly digital sounding Wild! had helped carve a path which wouldn’t be broken until well into the next decade.
Chorus opens with the howls and sirens of its title track. Andy Bell turns up, and sings “Go ahead with your dreaming…” in an extremely strong opener. As with much of Erasure‘s oeuvre the lyrics can sometimes be a bit of a nonsensical stream of consciousness. It feels as though Chorus (the song) is supposed to be an expression of seeing light through some kind of apocalyptic nightmare, but it really isn’t obvious!
The common theme of the album is one of pulsing analogue synth sounds and beautiful pop music. Two tracks Waiting for the Day and Am I Right? are particularly similar in sound and mood. As I recall the latter was written and recorded in Amsterdam, and it has a wonderfully evocative feeling running all the way through it, which immediately transports you to an Autumnal northwestern European city with all the sights, smells, and sounds that come with it.
If there’s a single forgettable song on Chorus, it’s the fourth song Joan, but even that on a later Erasure release could probably have easily been the best track on the whole album. Breath of Life quickly takes us back to the charged atmosphere of earlier tracks, as Vince Clarke‘s mad-professor-with-synths act plays perfectly alongside Andy’s flamboyant vocal.
Side two sets a very different pace, opening with second single Love to Hate You, which, for all its many positives, also returns us to the slightly nonsensical style of the title track. It’s slightly easier to work out what it’s supposed to be about, but it would be interesting to know the specifics for a good proportion of it! Add in the I Will Survive-channelling middle eight and occasional crowd noises and you have a very odd single, but also a very convincing one.
The quality doesn’t dip at all on the second half of the album. Turns the Love to Anger is maybe the least exciting of the bunch, but its killer middle eight more than makes up for that. Harking back to the album’s opening, Siren Song is beautiful if somewhat difficult to understand – apart from a brief mention, the song’s lyrics don’t seem to bear any obvious relation to the title.
But it’s with the final two tracks on Chorus that it reaches its crescendo. Perfect Stranger is unfortunately positioned as the often-forgotten penultimate track, but if you give it the time you’ll find that it’s a wonderful pop song which could quite easily have been a single in its own right.
And Home… well, what can I say? Erasure had never written or recorded anything this good before, and they probably never will again. Still charged with the analogue energy of the rest of the album, it adds an astonishing vocal and closes an almost-perfect album with near perfection. In short, for all its lyrical eccentricities, Chorus is an essential album for anyone who thinks they like synthpop. It could only ever have been downhill after this.
Find Chorus on iTunes here if you somehow don’t have it already.