It’s been five years since Erasure’s last original studio album, the uninspired and oddly bass-heavy Loveboat (in between, the veteran pop pair released an album of covers, appropriately titled Other People’s Songs), but not a whole lot has changed in their electro-animated world. Romance, as always, takes center stage, Vince Clarke’s pristine pop soundscapes are littered with vintage-sounding keyboards and oscillating synthesizer basslines, and Andy Bell’s lyrics and vocals are predictably light in the loafers (particularly on the gushy “Let’s Take One More Rocket To The Moon” and the sappy “Because Our Love Is Real”). The duo has been treading water ever since their creative zenith, 1995’s experimental Erasure, became their first bona fide “flop,” but there seems to be a similar somber undercurrent to the largely downtempo Nightbird, Erasure’s 11th album proper—no doubt partly projected in light of Bell’s recent announcement that he’s been HIV-positive since the late ‘90s. On the other hand, the album’s life-affirming lead single, “Breathe,” is the closest the group has come to capturing the pop perfection of their 1994 hit “Always” (from the under-appreciated I Say I Say I Say), while the buoyant synth hook of “All This Time Still Falling Out Of Love,” one of only a few uptempo tracks on the entire disc, is reminiscent of Erasure’s late-‘80s heyday.
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