By luck or by plan, it was Erasure who, in February 1989, scored the first number one on the compilation-free album chart, as The Innocents (originally released in 1988) returned to the top. Then just a few months later, they returned with their fourth album Wild! and topped the charts again. It’s a vast leap forward from its predecessor, but it also saw Clarke and Bell really embracing digital FM synthesis, which makes the album sound very dated in a particular way.
It opens with the instrumental reprise of Piano Song, somehow managing to be both beautiful and a little cheesy at the same time. After a minute or so of that, it’s on to third single Blue Savannah. Not particularly having been around at the time, it’s difficult to know how this might have been received when it was released in early 1990, but somehow now it seems locked in as a part of Erasure‘s history.
Lead single Drama! follows after a brief thunderstorm which seems suspiciously similar to the one on Introspective a year or so earlier. Famously one of the duo’s least favourite songs for a long time, it’s still got to be one of the best on this album. It’s got all of the traditional Erasure trademarks – at worst you could accuse the lyrics of being nonsensical, but even that’s not uncommon.
But as with The Innocents, when this album isn’t pumping out singles, it isn’t quite as interesting. How Many Times? is good, very sweet actually, but it doesn’t quite seem fully formed. It’s followed by final single Star, which is probably my least favourite of the four, but even so, it fits nicely on here.
Side A closes with the entirely nonsensical – and fun – La Gloria. It’s actually rather hard to fathom exactly what they were thinking when recording it – it is enjoyable, it is silly, and it is very memorable – but what on earth was going through their heads?
Side B is, on Erasure albums, the area where they often have problems. Wild! is no exception, but it does start with You Surround Me, easily the best of the four singles and a brilliant way to ease yourself back into the album.
There’s then a bit of a lull, with the reasonably good Brother and Sister followed by the decidedly poor 2,000 Miles and then back to reasonably good with Crown of Thorns. Occasionally all three seem to almost touch on brilliance, and then you’re back to mediocrity again.
The full version of Piano Song, though, is beautiful. Incredible. Moving. And entirely unexpected after the somewhat variable tracks which preceded it. What a way to close the album, though – it’s really quite astonishingly good.
So Wild! is a difficult one to quantify. The title is apt, and it’s definitely fun, but it’s also variable, and not always intentionally so. But just two years later, Erasure would return with perhaps the best of their career, Chorus.
You can still find Wild! at all major retailers.