Erasure - Wonderland
While contemporaries like the Pet Shop Boys have assumed the mantle of ‘national treasure’ and are currently playing stadiums in support of Take That, Erasure’s trajectory has been on a steady decline since 2000’s ill fated Loveboat sank just off the coast of Mute Records. But perhaps now is the time – with the duo on a well-received forest tour and a new album in the works for the end of the year - for another look back at their work, starting with the re-release of their first two albums, Wonderland and The Circus, which date back some 25 years. Everyone feeling old now? Good. Then we’ll begin.
When considering Wonderland, which has been remastered for the occasion, it’s notable that it wasn’t a commercial success in the UK on release – surprising considering Vince Clarke was at the time on a run of success, following Yazoo and Depeche Mode. In fact, while the album’s highlight, 'Oh L’Amour' is a firm fan favourite (and regrettably responsible, in part, for Dollar), they didn’t find success in the UK until 1986, when 'Sometimes' hit the chart. But there are choruses here as catchy as anything that came later – 'Oh L’Amour' will be most familiar, but 'Reunion' and 'Heavenly Action' both sit comfortably among the best of the duo’s output. The analogue synth sound has certainly aged – but not as terribly as you might imagine, and Bell's vocals sounds great. The main album also includes three remixes that were included with the original CD, but missing from later pressings.
The second disc feels like a little bit of a wasted opportunity for the hardcore fan (who these reissues are clearly for), given that the remixes were reissued with the EBX single sets a few years ago, leaving only two Radio One sessions from 1985 as new material. To their credit, the (very 80s) remixes are remastered, but the sessions are no great departure from the album versions and of passing interest at best.
The DVD is better, including a 1986 live video, and the promo videos for the album. Of these, the best is the 'Heavenly Action' video, which looks like it had quite a lot of money spent on it, but is nevertheless seemingly unrelated and utterly bewildering, featuring everything from a dog in a spaceship to what I can only assume to be a goblin. It’s worth the price of admission on its own. The live footage is interesting, a Swedish broadcast of a live show from the era which was widely bootlegged by fans but hasn’t seen an official release until now. (It’s worth noting that the album did well in Sweden, hence this footage existing at all). Erasure didn’t have the theatricality they developed by the time of the Wild tour, at which point Andy was gadding about in alarming outfits like a proto Jake Shears; instead it’s a straightforward show in a small club with a couple of backing singers, and makes for an interesting curio. The show ends with Bell encouraging the audience to “Tell your friends”. Given what happened next for Erasure, they probably did.