Andy Bell and Vince Clarke, the electro-pop duo better known as Erasure, have just released their new singles compilation, Total Pop! The First 40 Hits. It’s a bit tongue in cheek really, as if a volume of another 40 hits is likely.
The past decade has seen Erasure seemingly take a long, winding road to retirement with some definite strange turns. Their golden age lasted from the late ’80s to the mid-’90s and it’s been an odd career trajectory since: The Loveboat album (which was more like Titanic, career-wise), an ill-advised covers album titled Other People’s Songs, and Union Street, their very odd album of country and western versions.
These releases have not added up to critical acclaim. Erasure’s music has not necessarily become bad per se, it just seems to stand still in time with no noticeable forward progression. Claims of being creatively stagnant are not far off the mark, with their last challenging, interesting release being 1995’s self-titled ambient project produced by Thomas Fehlmann of The Orb. Bell’s recent solo outing Electric Blue was a fantastic effort which perhaps only served to highlight the musical prison that Erasure has become.
It’s just as well. Erasure has always been a singles band anyway, and compilations are where they shine. Pop! The First 20 Hits was the first in this pop compilation series, which saw the light of day in 1992; it summed up their heyday quite nicely. Total Pop: The First 40 Hits is essentially the original 20 hits, remastered and repackaged with a companion disc of a further 20 hits. I use the term “hits” loosely. The first disc contains real, bona fide megahits such as the ubiquitous “A Little Respect,” anthem “Chains of Love” and the sonic perfection of “Chorus” and “Love to Hate You.” The “hits” on the second disc are more a sad collection of flop singles, save for one of their biggest hits and best ever moments, the hauntingly beautiful “Always.” But despite being flops, it’s Erasure, and they can still write a damn fine pop tune when they set their minds to it. Listen to “Fingers and Thumbs” or “Sunday Girl” for proof.
It may not be their fault. Much like that other pop duo Pet Shop Boys, the world seems to have lost interest in the synthesizer duo. It’s a shame because the synth duo has proven to be one of pop’s most successful arrangements. It’s purely a generational thing; synth duos are just so ’80s, aren’t they? Wisely, Erasure has simultaneously released a rather good dance mini-album called Pop! Remixed which contains some brilliant and contemporary versions of their biggest hits, including “A Little Respect,” remixed by Avantara, “Always” mixed by Manhattan Clique and “Drama” mixed by JC and Bell.
If you’ve never invested in an Erasure compilation, Total Pop won’t let you down. It’s worth its weight in pop gold, a hook-filled package that will have you tapping your toes for days.