If the Village People came out with a speed-metal record, it wouldn’t hold a candle to Erasure’s new album. The duo, comprised of Vince Clark (an ex-member of Depeche Mode) and the high-pitched Andy Bell, have come back from the “Where Are They Now?” dead to record an album of covers. Matter-of-factly called Other People’s Songs, it is unbelievably bad.
The moment I heard this album I wanted to turn it off. But I was afraid of being like that Simon guy from “American Idol,” who’s made a career out of nationally televised declarations to scantily-clad blondes that they’re ugly, or can’t sing, or both. His act seems forced, and his criticism is about as intelligent as the blondes he so eloquently puts down. Keeping my distaste for Simon’s berating in mind, I tried really hard not to hate this album. I listened to it annoyingly often trying to find a song that wasn’t hacked to death by Erasure’s synthesizer-saturated production or Mr. Bell’s annoying note-for-note reproduction of the original vocals. I swear to God I could not. I even tried searching the Internet for other reviews of their material, to see if maybe some college student had succeeded where I had failed. The only article that didn’t declare them (in pink text) the “best band ever!” or “my heroes!!” was a rant against their album of ABBA covers, hilariously titled ABBA-esque, that gained Erasure their first No. 1 record in the U.S. at the cost of any respect they once had.
At least the ’80s pop icons had the self-awareness not to try anything too far out of their league on that 1992 debacle; here they absolutely slaughter everything from Buddy Holly and Elvis to Peter Gabriel’s classic “Solsbury Hill.” I think it’s important to note that Mr. Bell’s voice isn’t bad at all — though it isn’t, as the press release declares, “soaring.” If I had to pinpoint the worst aspect of the album it would unquestionably be the instrumentation, which was wholly in the hands of Vince Clark. The beats sound like they were taken from those songs that come factory-installed with Casio keyboards. Although they’re happy and bouncy, even funny, the music just doesn’t do justice to any of the original artists.
I can imagine the plethora of responses to my hatred of this cover album. It’s not true, though, that I don’t like ’80s pop music. (I really, really like that Wham! song that George Michael sings wearing that Choose Life shirt.) I also don’t have anything against its recent comeback. (The Joy Division-inspired Interpol is in my CD player at this very moment.) In fact, Erasure’s early stuff isn’t bad at all. But this album is. I’d rather listen to Cher than this, not to mention ABBA, or even the Village People doing speed-metal.