Erasure‘s renaissance seems to be reaching a head – after years in the wilderness, they reappeared with the great but over-processed Tomorrow’s World then a lovely Christmas album with Snow Globe. This time, they’re working with Richard X of all people!
The opening track is the eccentric but great Dead of Night. Its chorus falls a little flat by Erasure standards – think back to all those catchy songs you saw them performing in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But it’s still good, and the combination of the synth duo and the producer with his head in the 80s is a very strong one.
The lead single Elevation is next, another great piece of production with a slightly disappointing chorus. It would be difficult to really complain since this is Erasure at their best for a couple of decades – ultimately it’s good, but it’s not Always. Neither is second single Reason, but there’s plenty to enjoy here. The verse could easily be lifted from a song on I Say I Say I Say or Cowboy, but again the chorus doesn’t quite seem to grab you in the way that they used to.
Somehow The Violet Flame does this to you – you can’t stop yourself comparing it against their earlier work, however unfair that might be. Promises is similar – if you had never heard of them before, you would probably be able to enjoy it too, but somehow the return to their finest songwriting form and working with a distinctly retro producer makes you think you’re still stuck twenty or thirty years ago.
Be the One is easier to enjoy in its own right, but it’s Sacred where things really start to explode. This really is Erasure at their finest – a great lyric, a fantastic chorus, and some very catchy synth lines. This was the third single, at a time when most people can’t be bothered releasing anywhere near that many, and while they may only be doing it for the fans, it’s still a very notable release.
Under the Wave takes us right back to the start of Vince Clarke‘s career, with a lovely plinky-plonk synth line. Again, the verse is brilliant, but the chorus doesn’t quite manage to capitalise on that, which does appear to be a bit of a theme on this release.
Even towards the end of the album, surprises are lurking. Smoke and Mirrors is an enormous synth piece, and unusually for this album the chorus is entirely brilliant. It’s probably not a good idea to think too hard about the lyrical content, but it’s great nonetheless. The same is true for Paradise – actually, it seems many of the best songs are hidden towards the end of The Violet Flame.
This is particularly true for the final track, the superlative Stayed a Little Late Tonight. When Andy Bell opens with “I just wanted everything to be perfect,” you can’t help but think this might be more than just a one-off lyric – perhaps he really is referring to the whole album. Really, everything has come together extremely well this time around.
Thirty years on, The Violet Flame proves that Erasure definitely still have greatness in them – it’s a shame they’ll never see commercial success again, because future generations of music listeners deserve to know about this. But for those of us who still remember them, this album is extremely rewarding.
There are various versions of The Violet Flame in circulation, but the one you want is most likely the one with a live Greatest Hits CD.