The Circus

Onge's Review

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.

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.

Fans' Best/Worst Of

Top 3 Songs
  1. Hideaway
  2. Sometimes
  3. Victim Of Love
Bottom 2 Songs
  1. In The Hall Of The Mountain King
  2. Sexuality
Results taken from Poll 2008-09

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 – with one exception: Hideaway. For some inexplicable reason an extra note has been added to the intro which really sounds wrong and makes you wonder if this was added by mistake. Regardless, it shouldn't be there. 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.

Fan Reviews

Below are some fan reviews written by visitors to this very site. Once you've read these, please feel free to use the form at the end of the page to write your own review.

  1. Slam!!! Erasure was back with quickness and fervor, calliope bounces taking us for a ride we didn’t see coming. This was a developed and more mature sound, making the world begin to look up in question. A continuation of the songwriting, with musicality even more at the forefront. Could this band be something more than a passing fancy, really? Why, they just might at that! Further footsteps into the Universe, Erasure was now a force to reckon with, and Andrew Bell was permanently vindicated as an incredible artist all his own.

    How many of us will carry Safety in Numbers to our graves.

    10 out of 10
    Reviewed by Mig, Santa Cruz, CA
    1 January 2006 2:46 pm (GMT)
  2. First of all: This is simply the album that I most love in the whole world! That being said, I can try to explain now the reasons why this one moves me so much. Well, it starts with a great celebration of love without prejudice, which is called It Doesn’t Have To Be. This one has also a terrific part sung in Swahili idiom and I tend to believe Andy used this recourse for making a parallel between the racism and the homophobia, since that language is one of the most spoken in South Africa. Take a look at these lines: “You are on one side And I am on the other Are we divided?”. It’s clear to me Andy makes a reference to the Apartheid system here. Then it comes Hideaway, another brilliant song about prejudice. I consider it owns such a good lyrics that you can read it on different perspectives. I mean it doesn’t talk exclusively about being a teen gay in a protestant or catholic family at my point of view, but about being treated as an inferior person just because you feel or think or act differently of what the people that surround you expect from you. After those 2 fantastic songs, the album brings an inferior sequel of 3 ones: Don’t Dance, If I Could and Sexuality. See, I don’t consider none of them as weak – except for If I Could one, which owns poor lyrics, but they aren’t on the same level of IDHTB or Hideaway. Anyway Don’t Dance and Sexuality are very enjoyable and dancing ones. Then The Circus follows to its amazing second part, where you can find 3 of the best single-tracks from Erasure’s career to me: Sometimes, Victim Of Love and The Circus, including this last one owns one of the most intelligent lyrics written by Andy. I consider it’s surprising that The Circus single had reached a relative success on UK Charts, since it’s far from being an easy one. I mean it needs time for being properly appreciated. It’s definitely not a song that conquers you immediately after you’ve heard it at the first time. Regarding Sometimes & Victim Of Love, they are very well-constructed dancing pop ones and it’s not by chance both ones are always included on Erasure’s tour setlists! The other 2 tracks from this 2nd part could be perfectly excellent singles: Leave Me To Bleed, a phenomenal dancing pop song with wonderful both lyrics and synths, and Spiralling, which is simply one of the most smashing ballads ever written by Mr. Andy Bell, and it ends in a very impressive way that suggests a wish for suicide after a big love disillusion, when Andy sings: “Show me the way they say safety in numbers I lift up my eyes to the sky and imagine a crowd of hearts that surround me that give me the courage to die Were you to weep and lie soft at my feet? Then you’d wash all my troubles away and imagine the host of angels around me that give me the courage to die”. In relation to the cover of In The Hall Of The Mountain King, which was added to this work subsequently, I think it’s more than OK. That’s all folks!

    10 out of 10
    Reviewed by Ocean Soul, Rio de Janeiro
    22 January 2006 6:08 am (GMT)
  3. Erasure’s second LP is somewhat melancholic and has many enjoyable songs, for example: “it doesn’t have to be”, “hideaway” and “leave me to bleed”. Especially the hits “sometimes” and “the circus” highlight the album’s excellence. :)

    8 out of 10
    Reviewed by jemuvompo, Finland
    29 January 2006 10:29 pm (GMT)
  4. IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE [9/10]
    HIDEAWAY [10/10]
    DON’T DANCE [7/10]
    IF I COULD [6/10]
    SEXUALITY [8/10]
    VICTIM OF LOVE [10/10]
    LEAVE ME TO BLEED [8/10]
    SOMETIMES [10/10]
    THE CIRCUS [10/10]
    SPIRALLING [8/10]

    9 out of 10
    Reviewed by Michael, Amarillo, TX
    27 July 2007 7:25 am (GMT)
  5. The Circus is –like I read in another place- a collection of hits. It Doesn’t Have To Be, which opens the album, has everything: a contagious rhythm, good lyrics with an exotic touch –the swahilli part- and a nice video. The second song is the beautiful Hideaway that has become a hymn for minorities –especially gays- and reflects how difficult it is to be accepted being different. Unfortunately, this is the kind of songs that has cajoled Erasure as a gay band instead of being just a band with a gay singer. Don’t Dance just fills the gap decently. The record softens itself with If I Could where V&A shows their ability to makes unforgettable ballads. The explicit Sexuality take us to the nightclubs though I prefer the remix version appeared in Sometimes single. The live-esque song, Victim Of Love keeps on dancing. In Leave Me To Bleed, the repetitive melody doesn’t save the good lyrics. But the best is coming, Sometimes is an always young hit that never sounds dated, The Circus mixes powerful lyrics –in the Thatcher era- talking about unemployment with an allegoric tune. Spiralling closes the album, it is a soft and short song that includes another one Safety in Numbers to highlight it more. The extra track, In The Hall Of The Mountain King is very funny, in particular the way in which the sound grows. The remixes are a good addition but just for fans.
    Singles’ extra songs: The Soldier’s Return: good lyrics but weird melody that tries to imitate a march.
    Summary: If an Erasure style exists, this is the album where it was created

    9 out of 10
    Reviewed by Hernán, Buenos Aires-Argentina
    22 July 2008 9:03 pm (GMT)
  6. It Doesn’t Have To Be – getting on is better than conflict, and you can dance to it. Hideaway – a positive anthem for anyone considering coming out. Don’t Dance/If I Could – purely album tracks for a band writing fast to maintain momentum, but pleasant nonetheless. Sexuality – naughty in a way that won’t offend. Victim Of Love – a classic floor-filler. Leave Me To Bleed – a serious and strong song. Sometimes – the most important Erasure song ever, the first one most original fans ever heard, and the one that has always been my favourite. Without it you wouldn’t be reading this website. The Circus – how to make a hit out of having a conscience. A real of-its-time lambasting of how the UK’s traditional industries were sent into terminal decline. Spiralling – my choice for an acapella karaoke standing ovation. Safety In Numbers – the encore if I can find an accordion player.

    8 out of 10
    Reviewed by Paul, UK
    2 August 2011 12:31 pm (GMT)
  7. This album made a Erasure fan!!!! Simply brilliant and catchy songs!! And “Don´t dance” is the most underrated song, I really love it!!!

    10 out of 10
    Reviewed by Rafael_Brazil
    16 January 2012 4:19 pm (GMT)
  8. This will always be my favourite E album. I was 15 when this came out and I borrowed the vinyl version & the 7″ of victim of love and made myself a tape to take on holiday, to the annoyance of my sister & her pal as I played this tape all day & night for 2 weeks. This is just a sublime album. It is probably their most political as well, dealing with a lot of issues from the time. I can’t fault this album at all, as this is the album that started my love of the greatest duo ever to release music. Also if anyone can let me know of a better love song than spiralling then let me know.

    10 out of 10
    Reviewed by Chubs, Scotland
    11 March 2012 11:23 pm (GMT)
  9. just love erasure .love reunion .it rocks my boat .love it end of xx

    10 out of 10
    Reviewed by trevor day huddersfield
    24 March 2012 8:12 pm (GMT)
  10. This record it’s definitely a step forward in terms of sound from the rawness of the previous “Wonderland”. It contains doubtless some of the greatest songs of the duo like “Hideaway”,”Sometimes” and “Spiralling” and many more nice songs like “It Doesn’t Have To Be”and “The Circus”. Where the songs are not so nice (Sexuality?) the very good Flood’s production made it enjoyable nevertheless.
    Nice album!

    8 out of 10
    Reviewed by Christian-Genoa,Italy
    5 May 2013 2:31 pm (GMT)
  11. the great debut that never was but kinda should have been ..a massive leap forward after the good but not as great wonderland..spiralling is so moving, and hideaway is a very very poignant lyric. of course the almost perfect single…sometimes and the brilliant title track about industrial decay and unemployment really proved that great pop music doesn’t have to be about cars and girls.

    8 out of 10
    Reviewed by Paraic Ireland
    25 June 2013 3:45 pm (GMT)
  12. better than their debut but not as good as their end 80s and early 90s stuff

    HIDEAWAY is one of their best songs ever and one of the best coming out gay anthems

    SOMETIMES is the overwhelming highlight while there are also so much fillers

    7 out of 10
    Reviewed by Christianz Germany
    14 November 2013 9:49 pm (GMT)
  13. This is the Album that made me stand up and take note, wonderful, sensual and dark arrangements make this one of biggest records of the 80’s, Vince at the time was well ahead of the rest, beautifully made.

    favourite tracks: – Sometimes (Of course), Victim of Love & Hideway

    10 out of 10
    Reviewed by Steve
    6 December 2013 1:03 pm (GMT)
  14. I love every song they have made. These two guy’s are just genius musicians. I think sexuality is brilliant. It should have made the total pop 40 hits :(

    10 out of 10
    Reviewed by Donna Barlow. bridlington
    21 March 2014 5:40 pm (GMT)
  15. A good album. Nothing excepcional, besides Sometimes, Hideaway and It Doesn’t Have to Be Like That. Erasure would evolve so much after this one!

    6 out of 10
    Reviewed by BRossete Joinville, Brasil
    31 August 2015 10:32 pm (GMT)
  16. While “The Circus” was the critical break-out for Erasure, it doesn’t work as well for me as Wonderland. That being said, it is still a great outing and has some amazing moments.

    IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE [7/10]
    HIDEAWAY [8/10]
    DON’T DANCE [5/10]
    IF I COULD [5/10]
    SEXUALITY [6/10]
    VICTIM OF LOVE [8/10]
    LEAVE ME TO BLEED [8/10]
    SOMETIMES [9/10]
    THE CIRCUS [6/10]
    SPIRALLING [6/10]

    7 out of 10
    Reviewed by Jonathan Andrews – Florida, USA
    14 March 2016 5:53 pm (GMT)