After the failure of Wonderland in the charts, The Circus finally broke Erasure into Top 40 with a string of hits in 1986. The singles from this album tended to fare better than the album itself, with The Circus reaching number 6 in the UK album charts. However this album was the catalyst that started it all, and Erasure grew in popularity rapidly after this significant release. The enjoyable It Doesn't Have To Be is the album's opener, a song where Andy bemoans his partner's reluctance to proudly reveal him as his lover. It is an attempt to demonstrate that homosexuals should feel free enough to live open lives without the fear of homophobia and is as effective musically as it is lyrically. The massively popular Hideaway follows, which shows why many gay men are nervous about coming out - for fear of rejection. Frozen out by his family and friends, the boy in the song (which could be Andy singing from experience as some of the song is sung from a first person perspective), embarks upon a spiritual journey where he longs for his family to accept him for what he is. The song crucially is not without optimism, with the lyrics offering hope and contentment. Musically a tad simplistic, but still a fantastic song.
Spiralling was written by God as a thank you for Oh L'amour.Dotmusic.com
The catchy Don't Dance follows, although the song belies its title as it is the type of track you could enjoy dancing along to. The lyrics are not particularly amazing and encourage thinking for yourself, but Vince's accompaniment is contagious and engrossing, complimented by Flood's production. If I Could is a nondescript number, simple and devoid of significant merit. Pleasant it may be, but it isn’t especially exceptional, despite the uplifting tone of the lyrics. The outrageously raunchy Sexuality follows. This track is extremely enjoyable and although it lacks a certain subtlety this only adds to the charm and it feels like a good pre-cursor to some of the tracks from the Wild! album.
Victim Of Love starts the second half of the album. This was a reasonable single, but isn't a particularly breathtaking Erasure attempt. The performance and production is of a high standard but the song still lacks a certain something. Leave Me To Bleed is a cleverly written song, where Andy's investigating exposes his cheating lover's ways. Well structured and produced, this is one of the album's better songs. Sometimes is a superb Erasure song, one that took the charts by storm, and one which is a truly great 1980s tune. A flawless pop song: everything from the mature sounding arrangement from Vince to Andy's fine performance of his raunchy lyrics make this a great musical experience.
The Circus follows, a meaningful song about British society and how the miners of yesteryear have been reduced to nothing since the pits were closed. A key political topic of the 1980s this shows Erasure have more depth than the average pop band. The song is unique musically, with Vince experimenting to good effect with an accordion over a potent bass and melody. A fine and under-valued Erasure track. The non-CD versions of the album conclude with the sensational Spiralling, where Andy mourns the loss of the love of his life. Although generally a downcast song, the lyrics offer optimism that time will heal his wounds. The song concludes in a bizarre manner as a fading Andy offers the final hope over a fairground style waltz from Vince. All-in-all, a truly exceptional song. Bonus tracks on the CD version include some awful remixes and a poor cover of the instrumental In The Hall Of The Mountain King.
2011 saw The Circus the re-release of the album in box set form, which is comprised of a double CD and DVD. Remastered as usual, the tracks have slightly crisper treble and more defined percussion but in general the differences from the original versions are minimal. The second CD is home to a collection of remixes, b-sides and live session recordings, although much like the Wonderland box set, many of these extras haven't aged particularly well. What does seem strange is how nothing from The Two Ring Circus is included - especially given how the quality is generally much higher than the remixes on offer here. It would appear then that fans of The Two Ring Circus won't be seeing any of its tracks remastered. The live DVD has the band in good form, and whilst the overall package of this release is good (barring the sleeve notes having A Soldier's Tale instead of The Soldier's Return and Phantom Bride being erroneously titled Phantom Blue) there's a feeling the tracklist of CD2 could've been a little bit stronger.
The Circus is a strong album that deservedly brought the band some success and got their careers on the right track commercially. Whilst not one of my favourite Erasure albums, it shows at an early age that Erasure were an extremely capable band set to release some phenomenal music for years to come.
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