Erasure have been churning out sub-standard guff for a very long time now. It’s a real shame, but I genuinely believe that if you collected together their albums from Loveboat (2000) through to Light at the End of the World (2007) and maybe added in Andy Bell‘s two solo albums, you might just be able to scrape together a bunch of songs up to the standard of one of their earlier albums such as The Innocents (1988). To tell the truth, there were times when I genuinely wondered why they didn’t just split up and call it a day.
Exactly what went wrong is difficult to ascertain. Loveboat was misguided, and the cover version album Other People’s Songs which followed it in 2003 was quite simply a very bad idea. After that, Nightbird (2005) was a fair effort but just not strong enough in terms of songs, and Light at the End of the World just didn’t really have anything much to say for itself.
So it was very pleasing to me when I bought their latest album Tomorrow’s World, admittedly six months or so after it came out, and found that in the process of reinventing themselves with the help of pop genius Frankmusik they had also managed to write some very strong songs, and were able to come back with a great little album.
I must say, I quite like the recent trend of albums getting shorter and shorter, and one of the most charming things about Tomorrow’s World is actually how short it is. Long gone are the days when everyone felt they had to make eighty minute albums just because that’s what fits on a CD. This album is tiny, with nine little tracks, none of them clocking in at over four minutes, and this works entirely in its favour.
Tomorrow’s World opens with the second single Be with You, which is also one of the strongest tracks on the album. Third single Fill Us with Fire follows, and is quite wonderful too. The quality isn’t consistent though – there are a couple of dips between the hits, but this is where only putting nine little tracks on an album turns out to be a very good idea. Even if you aren’t keen on a couple of tracks, they’re never going to last for long.
But this is actually a little unfair – A Whole Lotta Love Run Riot may have a daft title, but turns out to be a great song, although the vocal effects do get a bit tiresome after a while. Surely Andy Bell is a good enough singer not to need quite that much processing? It’s followed by the brilliant lead single When I Start to (Break it All Down), which has a wonderful rhythmic energy and I think could well be their strongest single since Always (1994). The final track Just When I Thought it Was Ending turns up way too soon, but is a great album closer, and the whole thing is over already.
Then there’s a whole bonus disc of goodies, and as with any bonus disc you buy it excitedly because it’s “rare” and “exciting”, and then you find yourself a little disappointed because they’ve filled it up with lousy demos and remixes.
On this collection there are a couple of exceptions – the US bonus track (or b-side elsewhere) Shot to the Heart is better than anything on the actual album proper, and Give Me Life is good too. The remixes are largely uninteresting though, and the four early demo versions somewhat pointless inclusions. The b-sides meanwhile, particularly their cover of the Tomorrow’s World theme, are excellent and well worth tracking down.
My other main criticism would be the artwork, which is a colourised version of some artist’s models, with birds and butterflies nesting in a purple heart. As an actual work of art I think I like it – it’s fascinating and beautiful. As an album sleeve, it’s somehow gruesome and horrible. For a band who have always taken so much care to get their album art perfect, they seem to have completely lost their way (actually the same is true of their last album Light at the End of the World, which seemed to have been inspired mainly by the Mac OS X login screen).
But ugly artwork, overused vocal effects, and low points aside, Tomorrow’s World is a very contemporary sounding album, and also a very good one. Let’s hope Erasure‘s wilderness years are gone for good!
Grab the whole package on iTunes just here.