2016 has seen Erasure celebrate their 30th anniversary with a series of superb vinyl re-issues, a one off acoustic gig at a fan party and, crowning the anniversary off perfectly, a 13 disc, career spanning box-set called From Moscow To Mars.The box-set leaves very few stones unturned and gives you as near to the full picture of Erasure as is possible without actually moving in with Vince and Andy. It's a celebration of one of the most important electronic acts of all time and that alone is enough of a reason to love this release.
As you would expect from a band who released an era defining run of singles that reshaped British pop music, you get all the singles here. The first three discs are crammed with hits, from the obvious (A Little Respect, Sometimes, Stop!) to the ones that were released after the band stopped ruling the charts, such as the unmissable later period classic Breathe, a song that deserves to be recognised as one of Erasure's finest singles. There are two discs of B-Sides too, and these deserve attention. Erasure aren't as lauded for their B-Sides as the likes of The Smiths or R.E.M. but there are songs here that display the very best of Erasure. Such was their prowess with an A-Side, they were able to relegate tracks like Knocking On Your Door, Over The Rainbow, Ghost, Waiting For Sex and Tragic to second billing and that speaks volumes for them. All of those songs are superb and deserve to be heard. They even showed they still have an ear for a B-Side (if that is such a thing) with Die 4 Love, a gorgeous track that was the B-Side to 2014's Reason and arguably a superior track.
Andy Bell and Vince Clarke each curate a disc and neither gives you what you might expect. Like me, you might imagine that Vince's would feature more of the experimental side of Erasure such as Rock Me Gently or anything else from the Erasure album. Ok, that record's Sono Luminus features here, but that's more because of the general feel of the rest of the tracks Vince picks. This CD takes in Erasure's more soulful side, featuring tracks such as Weight Of The World, Blues Away, Cry So Easy and one of my favourites, the impeccable Home. It's an intriguing set of songs really. Andy's disc surprises too, being less full on pop that one might expect. There's very little pre Chorus in the collection, with that album represented by the sublime Joan and Siren Song. There's much more late period Erasure here than anything else and that betrays Andy's obvious sense of pride in those works which is lovely to see.
As a band who, along with other Mute artists, led the way in producing landmark 12" mixes, it's only right that a remixes disc features here too. Alongside classic remixes such as A Little Respect (Extended Remix), Stop! (12" Remix) and Love To Hate You (Bruce Forest Remix) there are plenty of new remixes here too. From a personal point of view, it's a sheer joy to hear Waiting For The Day (Vince Clarke Remix) as it's one of my favourite Erasure tracks and Vince putting a new spin on it is simply marvellous. New mixes from the likes of Little Boots (Blue Savannah) and Matt Pop (Heavenly Action) offer really interesting takes on old classics too. From the musical pedant's point of view, it's great to see classic remixes with classic names such as Extended Mix or 12" mix. That's all you need isn't it?
One area in which Erasure fans have suggested the box-set falls short is on the rarities side. There's one disc of them and hardcore Erasure fans have pointed out a number of tracks and demos that "should" have been on here, but, as someone who has been a fan for nearly all the band's 30 years, but who has focused on collecting everything another Mute band has put out, the rarities here offer me an intriguing look behind the Erasure curtain. I haven't heard any of these tracks, so it's win win for me. There is much to love here from Andy's audition take of Who Needs Love (Like That) to the demos of Waiting For The Day and Am I Right? and beyond. Perhaps I'm just lucky in that they've chosen many of my personal favourites for the Rarities disc, perhaps I'm not picky enough. I think this is great selection and it's great to hear these tracks in their various states of preparedness.
Erasure have a fully justified reputation as great live act - having seen them live 14 times so far, I can vouch for that. There's a disc of live tracks here and what that reinforces is just how good a singer Andy is. Songs like Spiralling, Home and Ave Maria take on a new life live with Andy's singing never failing to send shivers down the spine. The band's live side is highlighted visually too with last disc here being a DVD of the thus far unreleased on DVD Wild! Concert. This was Erasure at the peak of their commercial power as they filled arenas worldwide and thrilled audiences with their flamboyant live show. Unlike other acts who spend too much time focusing on the lights, films and costumes at the expense of the actual music, Erasure balance both perfectly and this concert film is a definite must see. Just skip La Gloria, as there really is no need for that track. Ever.
The box-set is finished off with a disc featuring a retrospective radio documentary alongside the traditional box-set filler of photos, a photo book and postcards. There's also a space passport, whatever that is and it's all packaged up in a wonderful box as the name box-set would tend to suggest.
It is entirely right that Erasure are celebrated as their contribution to British pop music cannot be understated.
From Moscow To Mars may not be aimed at the casual fan, but it's a proper celebration of the band and shows them at their best. It's too simple, and indeed wrong, to say that Erasure are "just" a pop band. There's much more to them that and all facets of the band are displayed here. Buy it, delve in and remind yourself how much you love Erasure.