Erasure is my favorite guilty pleasure. Like fancy-colored cigarettes and Bibicaffe, there's something deliciously affected, European and fizzily celebratory about the British synth-pop duo. Andy Bell and Vince Clark met in London in 1985. Bell was a star-struck nobody; Clark had already co-founded both Depeche Mode and Yaz. I first heard them in '86, when a friend brought me Wonderland and the Circus from England -- and I've been hooked on Andy Bell's theatrical, exuberant vocals ever since.
In the early days, Erasure was known for dance-friendly pop tunes tailor-made for gay bar seductions and getting down with your drag queen self. Nightbird (named for Bell's chronic insomnia) is Erasure grown up -- still infectiously danceable electronica, but with bittersweet longing amid all the synth and falsetto. The album's first single, "Breathe," is the perfect example -- sadness, joy and acceptance all melded into a surprisingly bouncy little anthem.
Erasure's first album of original work in more than five years, Nightbird might be the album that seduces a whole new generation of listeners. --Sheri Boggs
The guys in D.C.'s Dead Meadow have recovered the psychedelic stick from where '80s paisley underground bands like Rain Parade left it, extracting that movement's pop sensibility and plunging their "new sound" so far into the murky depths that you have to be on something numbing and illicit to appreciate it. Hell, even the Strawberry Alarm Clock gave your acid-addled brain something more to chew on. And Black Sabbath actually rocked. These guys know one tempo: lethargic. And the guitars -- along with singer/guitarist Jason Simon's vocals -- are buried so deep in the echo chamber they sound like they were recorded at the bottom of a lake.
The band's heavy-lidded psyche-rock gives plenty of spacey textural nods to its stoner antecedents, but few of the tracks here stand out -- from one another or as anything that could be considered progressive.
Feathers (Matador) is an opiate, except that instead of ushering you into a state of bliss, it takes you to the Laundromat to stare at swirling dryers for five or six hours. Which is great, if you're into that sort of thing. -- Mike Corrigan