Electronic Music’s dynamic duo Andy Bell and Vince Clarke better known as Erasure embark on their 18th Studio album release this week and its a rather rowdy affair in comparison to 2017’s thought-provoking World be Gone. The Neon descends upon us at a time where the mood is upbeat for Erasure in a week where synth pioneer Vince Clarke won the Special Recognition Award at this weeks Association of Independent Music online Awards and was duly presented with this by his partner in crime the flamboyant Mr Bell.
Recorded in Brooklyn, New York, Atlanta Georgia and mixed in London, The Neon was as Bell states ‘about refreshing my love – hopefully, our love – of great pop’ If the lead single ‘Hey Now (Think I Got a Feeling)’ is anything to go by both Andy and Vince have taken the pop bull by the horns with its strong catchy bassline and instantly recognisable Vince Clarke riff and set the tone of this album in exciting fashion. By no means the strongest single they have ever released but the fundamentals are there, catchy, upbeat and soulful.
The second single release ‘Nerves of Steel’ follows with a resounding analogue intro, an echoing syncopated backdrop enhanced with subtle keys twinkling in the background and its beautiful moody chorus displaying pure Erasure bliss. ‘Fallen Angel’ inspires with its haunting but yet aggressive electronic opening bars before taming into a disco thumper featuring a spacey sounding middle 8 and strong vocals. The cheerfully retro ‘No Point in Tripping’ nearly feels like it was part of the Upstairs at Eric’s sessions it’s that Yazoo tinged with its sparse synthetic sounds interlaced with a heavy bassline and wonderful Sci-Fi sounding middle 8 which is sublime.
‘Shot A Satellite’ was revealed on streaming platforms shortly after the lead single and gained a lot of favour with the Erasure faithful due to a traditional Erasure styling encompassing strong passionate vocals and quirky electronics. A shift in mood follows with ‘Tower of Love’, a brooding powerhouse with a muscular chorus, chilling synth pads and tones that evoke musings of a medieval film score. ‘Diamond Lies’ takes us back to the cheerful with its prominent analogues and ingeniously stuttering midsection and shows similarities to Bell’s 2010 Non-Stop album.
The mood again slows with the piano-led track ‘New Horizons’ a love song sung beautifully over a minimal keyboard structure interlaced with subtle sparse electronic effects. ‘Careful What I Try To Do’ bounces back featuring a heavy bass intro that turns reminiscent to the Pet Shop Boys – Always On My Mind’s deep tones. “You got fortitude and you find the means when you care about the important things” Bell emotionally projects over electronically entwined orchestration that makes for pure delight. The Neon closes with space-age filmic sounding keys layering through the moody ‘Kid You’re Not Alone’ and Andy Bell demonstrating that he’s never lost that upper-scale over the years and noticeably throughout this album.
The Neon is ‘Erasure’ personified, bright, colourful and electric – in fact, its that bright and electronic it should have an honourary place in Times Square or Shinjuku! The arrangements are sparse giving space for sounds to breath and don’t suffer from the need to clutter and for the majority, this offering is energetic, upbeat and full of life. It may seem more heavily 80’s influenced and contains some not unfamiliar Vince post-1989 sounds and some twee lyrics but the trademark hooks are still present and it’s unmistakably Erasure who are still on top of their game after 35 years.