In 1994, we hadn’t heard much out of Erasure since 1992’s Abba-esque EP. Their comeback, produced by Heaven 17‘s Martyn Ware was rightly much anticipated. Flanked by the single Always and housed in some quite exceptional artwork, it headed straight for the top of the charts, giving the duo their fifth consecutive number one album. But was it actually any good?
The album opens with the slightly discordant sound of Take Me Back, which builds into a really good song. Perhaps not as good as anything on Chorus (1991), but pretty good nonetheless. Heavy and layered, and punctuated by the occasional weird noise, Erasure‘s new sound was, for the last time in their career, entirely contemporary, and very popular indeed. On the strength of this, I Say I Say I Say was an entirely justified number one hit.
The same cannot unfortunately be said of third single I Love Saturday. By 1994, Erasure had been pumping out pop hit after pop hit, but rarely could it be said to be truly vacuous. Sadly, catchy though it is, I Love Saturday has very little to say for itself.
The slower Man in the Moon and So the Story Goes are more pleasant. The synth work is still a little overwhelming, but this was very much the trend in the mid-1990s. The choruses are catchy, and the lyrics are every bit as sweet as they should be.
Second single Run to the Sun provides something of a contrast, full of energetic, driving synth sounds. It’s worth a moment to consider the instrumentation – perhaps it is a touch over the top at some points on this album, but this track is really brought to life by the backing. This is actually even more brilliant than I remembered…
Then comes the lead single Always, which is certainly up there among Erasure‘s finest songs. Their golden age was indisputably drawing to a close by this point, but they were still more than capable of writing something utterly brilliant, as they proved without a doubt on this track.
All Through the Years is good – very good, in fact – but the thing is, the message is pretty much the same as Take Me Back. Perhaps, apart from a few moments of forced jollity, the whole of this album is about looking back on the past? Maybe not…
But as is often the way with Erasure albums, the second half of the album is a little disappointing otherwise. Blues Away is total drivel, admittedly with quite a nice melody and some very nice backing vocals, and Miracle isn’t a lot better. But that’s a pretty low clunker-to-hit ratio in the scheme of things, so we shouldn’t really complain.
Then in no time whatsoever, the album is drawing to a close. The last track is the lovely Because You’re So Sweet. Erasure, if they have nothing else (they don’t), have a particular knack for picking great closing tracks, and this one is particularly special. It’s a beautiful song, and closes the album rather wonderfully. But for once, this one is spoilt a little by its production – the steam train noise that closes the first chorus about a minute in is completely out of place. It’s tempting to suggest that the acoustic version on the I Love Saturday single might be better. But it’s still an extremely good song.
So I Say I Say I Say is certainly a variable album, sandwiched between the near-perfect Chorus and Erasure (1995, reviewed here). But at the same time, the memory cheats – it’s certainly a much better album than I remembered, and on reflection, two decades on it hasn’t aged too badly.