In the mid-'80s, no artsy high school music collection was complete without the pop avant-garde album Upstairs at Eric's by Yaz--an early electronic project by the creative duo of Vince Clarke and vocalist Alison Moyet. After she left the band to embark on a modestly successful solo career, Clarke teamed with Moyet soundalike Andy Bell and went on to form the techno-pop duo Erasure, whose 1986 debut Wonderland produced the dance-club hit "Oh L'Amour."
Little, if anything, seems to have changed in Erasure's music since then, except perhaps the length of their shorts, which seem to get shorter and shorter with every album, reflecting singer-lyricist Bell's tendency to get openly gayer and gayer as time wears on.
Despite a few bright spots, such as the hit single "Chains of Love" from The Innocents, and the fact that hair-dressing Erasure groupies have consistently ensured impressive album sales in the UK, substance has succumbed to cheesy, flamboyant ballads and disposable synth-pop; Clarke and Bell seem either ignorant or indifferent to the change.
The evolution from Yaz to Erasure marked the divisive split between self-respecting art-school bisexuals and out-and-out "you go girl" flamers. Though the most remarkable aspect of Erasure's latest album, Erasure (my, haven't we gotten creative with titles lately?), is a collaboration with avant-garde vocalist Diamanda Galas--famous in the art world for setting the likes of "L'Heautontimoroumenos" ("Self-Tormentor") by French poet Charles Beaudelaire to music--they are still producing the same flimsy, floofy trash disco that made Book of Love, Bronski Beat, and Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark sit out the '90s in shame.
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Fortunately, dance music has evolved by leaps and bounds since the '80s, and if you feel some compulsive allegiance to support openly gay music, there's plenty better to choose from (see Pansy Division or even RuPaul, for that matter). Better yet, just go down to Village Station the night of the Erasure concert and ask the DJ to play "Take a Chance on Me." No, the ABBA version.
Erasure plays the Bronco Bowl on Saturday, May 17.
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