Erasure has a funny effect on a lot of people. No, they don't make you gay (although a few of my friends did come out in the midst of Erasure's late '80s heyday). What I'm talking about is the way the mere mention of their name can make people explode into joyous exclamations of "I love Erasure," and even, well, spontaneous dancing. This actually happened about a month ago when I was meeting some friends of a friend for the first time, and again a few weeks later when I heard -- get this -- an Erasure cover of Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill" on radioio.com, and yet again when I played the new CD at work, attracting the attention of the unrepentant Erasure fans on my floor.
Synth Pop genius Vince Clarke founded Depeche Mode in the early '80s before breaking off to record a few albums with Alison Moyet as Yaz. By the time he met up with the flamboyant and soulful Andy Bell, he'd perfected the infectious effervescence that would become Erasure's trademark sound on such highly danceable hits as "Little Respect," "Oh L'Amour" and "Chorus." And while their lyrics sometimes tended towards tortured emotionality, Bell skirted the Pet Shop Boys' bored despondency and Depeche Mode's Sturm und Drang by adopting a vocal quality of elated yearning.
Other People's Songs is just what the title implies, a collection of covers ranging from the Righteous Brothers and Buddy Holly to the Buggles and the Korgis. Joined by Gareth Jones (who's contributed electronica to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Goldfrapp and Orbital, to name a few), Erasure never strays far from the original arrangements while still managing to imprint themselves on each song. It's particularly welcome on "Solsbury Hill," where the original spirit of the song is never lost but is instead buoyed up on an electric storm of spaceship sounds and soaring vocals. "When Will I See You Again" immediately evokes the gooey-eyed sentimentality of '70s ballads. "Can't Help Falling in Love" is as welcome a nod to the King as we've ever seen, and their cover of "You've Lost that Loving Feeling" is deliciously goose-bumpy. But hands down my favorite track (well, besides "Solsbury Hill") is the one I'd never heard before: Cliff Eberhardt's "Goodnight." Sweetly sincere, Bell only vamps it up a little on this haunting lullaby of a love song.