A very common phrase you’ll hear about Erasure is, “great singles band”. Whilst they haven’t made their masterpiece (their Violator, Behaviour or Technique) it’s unfair to dismiss albums as impressive as Chorus, I Say I Say I Say and The Innocents. At this stage it feels like the only people interested in full Erasure albums are their ever-loyal fanbase, but the band still puts effort in. They continue to quietly release albums that often contain excellent songs that the casual fan might miss. After a couple of lacklustre releases, Andy Bell and Vince Clarke sounded re-energised on 2014’s, The Violet Flame. For their 17th album, World Be Gone, the band are in reflective mode as the world they’ve sang about for over 30 years crumbles around them.
World Be Gone begins with ‘Love You To The Sky’ which is a red herring for the mood of the album, lyrically and stylistically. It starts with an upbeat thumping drum beat and some of Clarke’s classic arpeggiated synths. It has the same energy as The Violet Flame’s catchy opener, ‘Dead Of The Night’, but doesn’t reach the same heights. It’s the most throwaway song on the album as Bell unconvincingly sings the Erasure-by-numbers lyrics, “I love you to the sky sky sky sky/I’ll not tell you lies lies lies lies.”
Things vastly improve on the next few songs where the downbeat mood is a much better fit for their current state of mind. ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’ has a subtle, longing melody that’s reminiscent of, ‘Storm In A Teacup’ (one of their most underappreciated singles). The title track finds Clarke’s warm synths a perfect companion for Bell’s poignant lyrics, “world be gone or are you filled with love in the way that you promise us?” It would fit nicely on their commercial-suicide self-titled album from 1995. ‘A Bitter Parting’ has an effective use of layered backing vocals that characterised the mighty, ‘Blue Savannah’.
The anomaly on World Be Gone is the album’s most political song, ‘Oh What A World’. It’s hard not to think of fellow Mute act, Depeche Mode, as Clarke uses cold and metallic keyboards to complement Bell’s robotic singing style. He sings, “Stop the world, I want to get off with you baby”. Bell addresses similar concerns on ‘Lousy Sum Of Nothing” as he asks, “what do you feel now the world has lost its loving?”
The world-weary lyrics are matched by Bell’s performances. ‘Still It’s Not Over’ is a highlight with a minimal backing and an impassioned vocal from Bell as he sings, “and ignorance isn’t bliss and words they can hurt me”. ‘Just A Little Love’ finds him on great form as Bell pleads, “tell me this isn’t the end and it’s only the start”. It’s an effortless and hopeful end to the album.
Because of the forced, ‘Love You To The Sky’ and the underwritten, ‘Sweet Summer Loving’, World Be Gone isn’t quite as consistent as their best work, but it’s still their most enjoyable release since 2005’s hugely underrated, ‘Nightbird’. They’re two albums that have similar DNA and are filled with introspection. World Be Gone features enough moments to remind people to go beyond their singles and not take their albums for granted.