Where To Start With... Erasure
For the first half of the 1980s you could barely switch on a radio without hearing something Vince Clarke was involved in. Beginning his career at the start of that decade as a founding member of Depeche Mode and penning several of their early hits such as 'I Just Can't Get Enough' and 'New Life', Clarke moved on from the band he helped to create shortly after their debut album Speak & Spell was released in 1981, reportedly the result of growing tensions between him and the other band members.
For the next few years he would become a restless but hugely influential presence on the British music scene, helping to bring synth-powered electro-pop into the mainstream under a variety of guises, including several releases as The Assembly and two albums with Alison Moyet as Yazoo, who scored a hat-trick of Top 3 hits with 'Only You', 'Don't Go' and 'Nobody's Diary'. Shortly after the release of the latter, however, the duo split, citing a breakdown in communication, and Clarke was once again looking for a new project.
Placing an ad in Melody Maker looking for a vocalist, he received an application from one Andy Bell, a previously unknown singer who had been a huge fan of Clarke's work up until that point. Forming under the name Erasure in 1985, the band released their debut album Wonderland just a year later.
By the standards of Clarke's earlier success – and by what was yet to come – both the album and its singles were a commercial flop, but a breakthrough finally came with the duo's fourth single 'Sometimes', featured on their 1987 follow-up album The Circus. Narrowly missing out on the top spot and peaking at No. 2 in the UK Singles Chart, the song was just as successful across Europe and began Erasure's incredible run of 24 consecutive Top 40 hits in the UK, which finally came to an end two decades later in 2007.
The combination of Clarke's knack for songwriting and deadpan stage presence with Andy Bell's flamboyant style and powerful vocals has proved to be a hugely successful one, with Bell becoming something of an icon on the LGBT community, among which the duo retain a hugely dedicated following.
Erasure have enjoyed less chart success on the singles front in recent years, but they've continued to find their albums in the Top 40 not only in the UK but various other countries such as Germany and Denmark, with their most recent album, 2017's World Be Gone, becoming their most well-received in years, reaching No. 6 in the UK.
Its follow-up was announced in June and this week The Neon becomes Erasure's 18th studio album to land on the shelves in our stores, featuring the duo's recent single 'Hey Now (Think I Got A Feeling)', which you can find below.
To celebrate the duo's return we went digging through their back catalogue and pulled out five key tracks as a guide for the uninitiated...
The breakthrough moment that kickstarted the duo's long run of chart hits, 'Sometimes' was the moment Erasure's sound really gelled for the first time and established a brand of bright and breezy electro-pop that would see them become one of the decade's biggest-selling duos.
'A Little Respect'
In a crowded field, perhaps the biggest of their run of 80s hits is 'A Little Respect', taken from their third album The Innocents – which also happened to be the first of four consecutive No. 1 albums in the UK. Not to be confused with the song that had earlier been a hit for Aretha Franklin, this is instead a distillation of Bell's soaring vocals and Clarke's chiming synths that became Erasure's trademark.
'Love To Hate You'
Released in 1991 and featured on Erasure's fifth album Chorus, 'Love To Hate You' takes its cue from another song often regarded as a “gay anthem” - namely Gloria Gaynor's 'I Will Survive' – interpolating the song's string break as a melody for its verses and combing them with Bell's suggestive lyrics to create an anthem of their own.
One of the more downtempo hits Erasure have released over the years, this swelling ballad first appeared on the duo's 1994 album I Say I Say I Say and was a result of Clarke's idea to create an album of dance music without using any drum machines, instead using synthesizers to create the songs' rhythms. Along with 'Run to the Sun', 'Always' was also one if the album's biggest hits, peaking at No.4. It's still a fan favourite top this day.
Arriving towards the end of that 20-year unbroken run of Top 40 hits, 'Breathe' was first released in 2007 and featured on the band's 11th studio album Nightbird. It was also their first (and last) Top 10 single of the 2000s , peaking at No. 4, and remains a favourite fixture of the duo's flamboyant live sets.