Erasure are a celebrated synthpop duo from England, who have managed to attain 24 consecutive Top 40 hits in their home country and three Top 20 hits in the US. They also won the 1989 Brit award for Best British Group and were nominated in that category for many consecutive years. However, for new listeners who may never heard of Erasure, it would be easy for them to wonder why the duo have received such merit when listening to this latest release. A clearly club-friendly album (and obviously directed towards such an audience), The Violet Flame is a painful collection of synthesised club songs that fail to produce any unique identity of their own. How unfortunate.
It’s also a real shame because, for some of these tracks at least, you can tell Erasure were really trying. The album opener, Dead of Night, is a foot-tapping dance-pop song that gives a false promise of things to come. It’s not hard for anyone to come away from it singing “D-d-d-dead of night” over and over. The same can certainly be said of the album’s lead single, Elevation that utilises some impressively ambient synths while Andy Bell sings; “You can’t fight if your love is getting higher, your love is getting higher”. The repetition of the track makes it easy to see it as a hit in clubs and that’s all very well. It’s just that there is a certain blandness about this new LP that keeps it from being special. In fact, it is a far-cry from special; it borders more on the side of painful.
It’s painful to listen to because every song sounds similar. I dare anyone to choose a memorable song from this album since the same snyths and sounds are seemingly re-used and the melodies are seemingly drawn from the same well of ideas. The lyrics also seem to have come from the pop-songwriter’s book of clichés. “You’re the only reason I live/The only reason I forgive” sings Bell in Promise, through his increasingly droney vocal before ending the song’s coda on “Give a little love/I’m all over it/Never get enough/I’ll scream and shout for it”. Unlike Bell’s attitude towards love, however, you will get enough of this album before you’re halfway through it. As I said before, Bell’s tone just drones on and on amongst the uninspired beats. Sometimes, that needed passion and energy in his vocal is missing even when it is needed in a song the most. It’s as though he was getting bored making this album and his attitude was leaking through his singing voice. Where is the energy of his voice in such Erasure classics as A Little Respect? Because it’s totally missing here.
To say that Erasure’s latest release is disappointing is an understatement. It’s hard to believe these were the same people who gave the world some of the most memorable dance hits of the 80’s. If you’re looking for quality pop entertainment, then it would be best to look elsewhere than this ultimately forgettable album.