After a three-and-a-half absence, Erasure returned with their ninth original album Loveboat in October 2000. Produced by Flood who worked on the first two Erasure albums, this album demonstrates an experimental element to Andy and Vince's song writing with the album possessing a largely acoustic feel. The album opens with Freedom, which with its heavy guitar strumming and catchy chorus is a largely a pleasant song, but it doesn't possess any real long-term potential. Where In The World is one of Erasure's finest ballads, a song rich in empathy and emotion. The production is also of high quality, with the soft beat complimenting Andy's deep, heartfelt vocals. Crying In The Rain is a track of innovation, with an R'n'B-esque drum arrangement complimenting Andy's vocals. Although cliché filled lyrically, this does not detract from a fine song. Memories of the Erasure album are also evident, with the Pretentious style middle-eight showing Vince may well not be over the appeal of surreal sounding audio.
Loveboat is the richest and most diverse Erasure album in years. Crying In The Rain welds bent hip hop beats to Bell's angelic keening, the ballad Surreal provides the honeycomb pop kiss goodbye and Catch 22 and Alien are classic Erasure pop songs.CDNOW.com
Perchance To Dream is wonderfully diverse lyrically, rich in imagery and escapist metaphors, with this song demonstrating a exploration in Andy's vocal writings which can be sometimes missing. The music is equally unconventional, with the stomping bass and often cracking percussion showing a different musical direction from Vince. Despite this, the track does feel a little raw and under-produced. Alien is an Erasure classic, an example of the perfect pop song Erasure never fail to deliver. Beautifully performed, this is almost reason enough to have Loveboat in your CD collection. That said, the bass in the final chorus does feel a bit over-amplified and smothers the song's conclusion slightly. The production of this album has come under a lot of criticism and in this instance it could have perhaps been better.
The album then slows for the uninspired Mad As We Are. Confused lyrical imagery and a bland musical accompaniment make this the weakest track on the album. Apparently an attempt to write a Phil Spector-esque style number, the only really interesting thing about this track is the way the volume gradually builds up as the song reaches it's conclusion. Here In My Heart is potentially a decent Erasure track let down again by an drab production which doesn't know if it's trying to sound retro or futuristic. Either way it fails and does not compliment Andy's singing which takes a turn for the worse on a couple where uncharacteristically Andy warbles his way through a small section of this song. All is forgiven as the excellent Love Is The Rage kicks in with Andy at his vocal superiority once again. A song from the heart, with an excellent Vince melody this is a fine Erasure track. A catchy chorus demonstrating the conflicting idiosyncrasies of love is the central theme to this ballad. Without doubt one of the best songs on the album.
Fans' Best/Worst Of
- Catch 22
- Mad As We Are
- Crying In The Rain
Next up is Catch 22; another track where the production is so demo tape-esque that it detracts from an otherwise good song. Typical Andy lyrics but a far too bass-heavy arrangement simply leaves this track sounding confused. The song itself is decent, but sadly the mixing is not. Moon & The Sky is one of the least Erasure type song they have ever written. No real chorus structure, but instead a techno beat and astrological imagery make this a pleasant departure from the Erasure norm. This track indicates that perhaps Andy and Vince have it in them to release a real dance floor hit, but whether they will attempt to is unlikely. Surreal concludes the album in typical ballad style. Strong lyrically, understated vocally and musically this song is a gem of a track.
Generally this is a satisfactory album which is sadly let down by the mastering which I can't help feeling is inadequate. Who is to blame for the perceived problems of the audio is unknown (Flood seems to bare the brunt of it, rightly or wrongly), but the raw, unpolished sound is a big step back from the rich aural tapestry of Cowboy. Over time this album has grown on me (especially after learning this was the first album written after Andy was diagnosed as being HIV+ which now paint the lyrical themes in a different light), but ultimately Loveboat doesn't have the strengths to be considered one of their best.
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