Other Peoples Songs!
The concept of established acts
recording a complete album of cover versions is nothing new. Paul
McCartney and John Lennon (as soloists), Bryan Ferry, Duran Duran,
Status Quo and David Bowie are among those who have been there with
varying degrees of artistic success or failure.
The major point at issue is firstly, what is the point? (Apart from
money, of course). Apart from assuming that your fans will slavishly
buy everything you release, there is no point in covering standards
unless you can bring a new dimension to them. Remaking note-for-note
renditions is on the whole rather a waste of time. The McCartney and
Lennon projects succeeded by and large, because their love of the
old rock'n'roll songs which inspired them shone through, and Bryan
Ferry often took old favourites (such as early Dylan material)
inside out, rearranged them beyond recognition, and stamped his own
character firmly on them. The other acts mentioned above, in my
view, generally didn't. (Ironically Status Quo's 'Don't Stop', an
OK-to-middling party album, was by far their biggest seller for
And I can't really get in the least enthusiastic about Erasure's
contribution to the genre.
First, the basic facts. 12 well-known songs, from the late 50s
(Buddy Holly) to 1980 (the Korgis), all delivered in that pristine
Erasure-esque choirboy vocal and electro style. They ain't
rock'n'roll, so don't expect any blistering guitar solos, beefy bass
runs or thunderous drum breaks to scorch your socks off. They ain't
crooners, so that counts out any ideas of a strings or brass
section. No, they're just one man with that almost surreal
semi-angelic voice, plus one man and his microchips, Fairlights,
DMX7s, or whatever (the usual keyboards, programming gizmos et al).
And it all sounds so one-dimensional. Andy and Vince wrote and
recorded some good singles in the 80s ('A Little Respect',
'Sometimes' and 'Stop', to name but three), but (a) they haven't
moved on and (b) that same chirpy pop sensibility that enlivened
their own songs falls flat when applied to these.
Though I have heard it right through, I'm not going to do a
track-by-track review, because I don't feel that's merited. 'Solsbury
Hill', the first single, doesn't deviate that far from Peter
Gabriel's original, and in my view it's OK. 'Video Killed The Radio
Star', sung in a robot voice by guest Mick Martin, with Andy on
backing vocals, is almost a replica of the Buggles' chart-topper. As
such, it's probably the most successful effort here - but, why?
Maybe the guys could have stuck to Human League, Pet Shop Boys,
Ultravox and OMD oldies, and it would have worked from that point of
view, while being totally redundant from another.
But the rest - let me see. On the whole, this album has about as
much passion as a karaoke machine. Sorry, but it has to be said.
'Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)', in its original form, works
because Steve Harley's angry, cutting lyrics don't stop it from
sounding like the great commercial pop tune we all know it is.
Erasure's take just sounds like a twee singalong. So does 'When Will
I See You Again'. So does 'Everyday'. So does 'True Love Ways'.
'Goodnight' is really quite pretty as far as it goes (I don't think
they have the irony to make a song with that title anything but a
lullaby), but those plinky keyboards just don't give the song any
'Can't Help Falling In Love' has been mauled by everyone from the
Stylistics to UB40, and the twee effort on here will earn the
writers (or their estate) a few more royalties but not serve any
other useful purpose. 'Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime', the
newest of the twelve songs, is passable, but if only because it
sounds not that dissimilar to the Korgis' own. Moreover I've always
found 'Ebb Tide' and 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'' Dull City to
start with, and listening to this record does nothing to change my
If you're an Erasure fan and not familiar with the songs anyway,
you'll almost certainly enjoy this. Maybe I should have left my
old-fashioned musical prejudices at the door. It's clever,
technically polished, but absolutely soulless. Moreover, if I was a
fan, I might not be too happy at paying full price for a new album
which only plays for 40 minutes.
by JOHN DMR