It’s the 20th anniversary of Erasure’s first album, Wonderland, which introduced people in dance clubs all over the world to both “Oh L’amour” and “Who Needs Love (Like That)?” Eleven more albums later brings us to a completely different Erasure, the duo found on the acoustic album, Union Street. Over the years, Vince Clarke and Andy Bell have become synonymous with flamboyant disco dance music, lavish stage productions, and synthy goodness. So, most Erasure fans might turn their heads at hearing an acoustic version from their favorite band. But, considering how it turned out, I’m surprised they hadn’t thought of it earlier! Union Street pares down Erasure to its most basic elements and showcases the beauty of the spectacular voice of Andy Bell.
By no means is Union Street an everyday greatest hits compilation. For that, fans of the band’s early work can get Pop, while completists should go for Hits!, the double disc all-encompassing collection. Instead, this acoustic album is a reinterpretation of an Erasure that could have been. It delves deeper into the band’s catalog than a surface hits collection ever could, finding the songs that would be well served by a second look, one from a completely different viewpoint. Acoustic guitars, mandolins and slide guitars replace synthesizers and drum machines, making longing and lonely country songs out of new wave lavishness. With Union Street, Clarke and Bell effectively take the electronic out of the electronic torch song.
First single, “Boy,” originally from the eighth album, Cowboy, opens the album in such a way as to get you ready for what is to come. Singing about the ache, bitterness and regret of a relationship gone wrong to slide guitar makes one think that it could have been an accompanying anthem for the film Brokeback Mountain. Songs like “Piano Song” and “Blues Away” really highlight the range of Bell’s voice, going from a very deep bass to sweet falsettos with ease. “Stay With Me” and “Rock Me Gently,” both from their self-titled seventh album, showcase the great songwriting the two were producing, despite the fact that most thought them past their prime. Amazingly and somewhat fittingly, songs from Union Street are said to be marketed for country radio!
It’s amazing what a change of scenery will do after twenty years have passed. Union Street is the perfect example of what MTV was `trying’ to do with its Unplugged series. It was originally conceived after Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora performed acoustically on an MTV awards show to universal acclaim, showcasing the power of the stripped down version of rock and roll. But several bands and artists (i.e. Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, 10,000 Maniacs) were already considered somewhat `folky’ acoustic acts, whereas other bands failed to remain true to the idea of acoustic. Sets by Nirvana, Jay-Z with the Roots and LL Cool J were enough to make the series noteworthy, however. Now you can add to that list Erasure. They have more than successfully transformed themselves into a different entity, highlighting their deeply heartfelt and emotional songs as opposed to the upbeat dance numbers they’re known for. This was quite a risk for Erasure and they’ve pulled it off in (how else?) dramatic fashion. As an answer to whether the world is ready for acoustic Erasure, the duo’s upcoming acoustic tour is sold out everywhere.
Alison Moyet- The Voice
Andy Bell- Electric Blue