After Two Decades, Two Reliable Brits Deliver Two Keepers


Erasure come up with two great additions to the Erasure canon on Nightbird, which is about par for their albums, though the screaming fans who sang along to every song in last year’s The Tank the Swan and the Balloon LIVE! DVD (or who recently bought out a record five nights at Irving Plaza) might demand a little more respect. But really, an average two keepers per album over a 20-year career is nothing to wag your finger at. “Don’t Say You Love Me” is a clear reversal of their insatiable “Don’t Say Your Love Is Killing Me” stance, and demonstrates the ever deepening strengths of two Brits resigned to post-party recession. Andy Bell’s voice doesn’t attempt its former flights, but his lyrics achieve appealing looniness, revolving around an odd recurring rhyme of “angel” and “radio.” (True to form, he titles the other winner “Here I Go Impossible Again.”) Vince Clarke multi-tracks Andy’s vocals as gorgeously as ever (adhering to the traditional labor division, though both get programming credit), and his synths have evolved into one of the peripheral marvels of not-unlistenable adult pop, up there with the Edge’s guitar and the Dave Matthews Band’s drummer. Vince’s rhythm parts are seamless propulsion machines that fade to wallpaper underneath layers of pretty melody lines and witty squiggles; you don’t even consider that you’re listening to synths until an impeccable R2D2 squirk jogs your memory.

Erasure have long been beacons of “gay outreach” (as Barry Walters once put it), but The Tank . . . , a reissued record of the ’92 tour where my wife lost much teenaged innocence, reveals them as ideal for wary hetero husbands. Andy is outlandishly entertaining whether spinning in froofy Victorian getups or breathing sweaty come-ons to the audience; but if you start to feel like maybe your better half wants to see you cavort in an assless cowboy suit, you can watch Vince stoically punch buttons on his machines and know everything’s OK. And when Andy prances through the sublime fidelity hymn “Blue Savannah,” he speaks for everyone who equates the phrase “home is where the heart is” with “really good time.”

Erasure play Irving Plaza April 21, 22, 24, 25, and 26.