Erasure returns after giving Frankmusik 'carte blanche'
Twenty-five year-old synthpop act Erasure might be an unlikely candidate to pack the clubs on its current North American tour, but the fans are out and giving the duo more than just “A Little Respect,” to reference the 1987 single that yearned for some recognition.
With the exception of 2005 single “Breathe,” which topped the U.S. dance charts, Andy Bell and Vince Clarke of Erasure haven’t seen mainstream success here in two decades. No matter, as shows in Austin, Texas, Denver and Dallas sold out, and a Saturday appearance at the Hollywood Palladium promises to have a celebratory feel.
Bell definitely feels the stateside love. "People seem to be much more appreciative over here than in the U.K., for how many years we've been touring,” he said by phone from a St. Louis hotel room. “It's not like we have mass exposure here. People come see us mainly on word of mouth."
That’s a phenomenon quite familiar to cult bands. In a digital-driven music landscape, a veteran group's continued relevancy can lie heavily on live shows rather than record sales. A veritable poster band for the LGBT crowd, the group was one of the first acts with an openly gay frontman to have chart success with hits such as “Chains of Love.” Mainstream audiences also might know Erasure from the popular flash game Robot Unicorn Attack, whose theme song is the classic Erasure track "Always."
"You have to consider the time when Erasure was capturing its audience," said Christine Nash, a former A&R rep for Warner Bros. and Virgin. “[It was] a time that if you were a fan of a band, you really believed in everything they did. Erasure became their fans' champions."
Think, then, of an Erasure tour as something of a homecoming. "They are almost like reunions to us. We all know we're going to the show when it comes through town," said Jonathan Munfore, a 41-year-old Erasure fan from Santa Monica.
Erasure is on the road to support its 14th LP, "Tomorrow’s World." On its newest release, things are decidedly more intimate than the club-oriented offerings on 2007’s "Light at the End of the World." The tracks range from warm, mid-tempo ballads such as "When I Start to Break It All Down" to dark, theatrical dance floor bombers such as "I Lose Myself." There's even a dip into doo-wop with the inspired swinger “You’ve Got to Save Me Right Now.”
True to form, Erasure packs in plenty of disco beats, infectious melodies and loved-and-lost-related lyrics. This time, they’ve given production reins to 25-year-old synthpop musician Frankmusik, a.k.a. Vincent Frank, a British expatriate who’s set up his production studio here in Los Angeles.
Even though he was in diapers when Erasure’s singles were first climbing the charts, Frank gives Clarke’s vintage synthesizers a polish but doesn’t let the sound stray far from classic Erasure-ness. Bell said, "We gave him carte blanche to do whatever, and I'm really over the moon about how it turned out."
Clarke (a former member of Depeche Mode and Yazoo) added, "We chose Frank because he is someone who has a different approach to the music, who is sympathetic to synthesizers and incredibly keen. He just really likes that American pop thing -- that whole Lady Gaga, full-on wall of sound."
The album’s release has been pushed to Oct. 11, but fans will get a taste of several of the new songs at Saturday’s show. The act promises an over-the-top affair complete with an elaborate, gothic set (gargoyle included!), sassy backup vocalists and the lovingly flamboyant antics of frontman Bell. Of course, there will plenty of hits from the band’s past -- all of which will, no doubt, be passionately sung along to by the audience. Let’s just hope they leave the high notes to Andy.
-- Ramie Becker
Photo: Erasure in August. Credit: Radko Keleman.