Erasure’s recent productivity has been a real joy for fans. Recent albums have seen them return to form, focussing on their classic pure pop sound to incredible effect. 2020’s The Neon gathered deserved universal acclaim, and their tour in support of the album was an absolute joy, with the sell-out London show at the O2 a real highlight and proper celebration of one of this country’s best ever bands.
Hot on the heels of The Neon, we get Day-Glo (Based On a True Story), a brand new ten-track album that uses elements of The Neon. Ever the innovator, Vince Clarke, found himself with some studio downtime. He began to manipulate files for tracks from The Neon, creating a series of tracks that contain echoes not only of that album but also of Erasure’s past. Andy Bell then took those and worked with the band’s long-term collaborator Gareth Jones to add vocals to each, focusing more on adding melody and sounds than actual lyrics. Indeed, only two of Day-Glo’s ten tracks would be what one would consider a “normal” Erasure track. It’s a bold and rather brilliant move on the band’s part.
Erasure may be best known for their pop genius, but they’ve never been frightened to experiment. Their 1995 self-titled classic, for example, was a remarkable move. Chorus and I Say I Say I Say were essentially perfect pop albums, and following those with an 11-track album filled with songs more than 5 minutes long was quite something. It paid off, too, as Erasure is one of their strongest and most rewarding albums. The I Say I Say I Say era was not all pure pop, too; many of the B-sides the band released in that time sound like a much tougher Erasure than we had ever met before. I could start to go on about the sheer genius of that period of the band at some length, but we’re not here to talk about that.
Essentially, there has always been much more to Erasure than meets the eye, and Day-Glo further emphasises that. The opening track “Based On A True Story” is a marvellous start to the album, an Erasure-like track that builds and builds, crammed with dark Vince synth sounds. Straightaway, you know that you are in for a different Erasure here. It’s them, but there’s something else going on. “Bop Beat” follows, reminiscent of The Neon, with Andy’s voice sampled and manipulated. It’s interesting hearing Andy in this new form, and it really works.
“Pin-Prick”, one of a few songs on here with a title that brings Vince and Martin Gore’s VCMG project to mind, is one of the album’s highlights, with its early Vince Clarke era sounds and Andy’s wordless singing melting together perfectly. “The Conman” recalls mid to late 80’s era Erasure B-sides and is notable for being the first point in the album where we hear actual vocals from Andy. “Now” is another standout track that can be added to any list of great Erasure songs. Listening to it, I thought of Yazoo’s “I Before E Except After C”, albeit “Now” doesn’t sound as ominous as that song. It’s a lovely track and one that could easily be turned into a standard song, but why would anyone want to do that? “Inside Out” is next; with it, we return to the earlier, darker feel of the album.
The following two songs are much more Erasure-like in that they feature full vocals from Andy. Both “Harbour Of My Heart” and “3 Strikes And You’re Out” could easily have featured on The Neon, and they are the closest you get to that album on here, perhaps two songs reworked by Vince as opposed to being new experiments with elements from the album. The closing two tracks, “The Shape Of Things” and “The End”, are wonderful, with “The End” a gorgeous end to what has been a bold, innovative and hugely enjoyable album.
Day-Glo (Based On A True Story) is a reminder that Erasure has always been much more than the titans of synthpop they are justifiably recognised as. Dig into their albums, and you will find many different versions of the band, each one a real treat. This album shows that even when they go off-road and experiment, they still produce music capable of surprising and delighting you. Long may this period of productivity carry on.