There seems to be something of an Erasure revival at the moment, no doubt kicked off by Wheatus‘ successful version of their ’80s hit A Little Respect. Indeed the first single from this album went straight into the Top 10, so the band obviously still have a loyal following. As if inspired by Wheatus’ success, their comeback record is a covers album, appropriately entitled Other People’s Songs.
This has been attempted, by various artists, with varying degrees of success. Tori Amos was probably the last high profile singer to give it a go, with her Strange Little Girls collection. Although that could probably be regarded as slightly flawed, it stands out as an absolute masterpiece compared to this woefully misconceived venture.
Kicking off with an anaemic version of Peter Gabriel‘s Solsbury Hill, it’s shocking to hear how reedy and passionless Andy Bell’s voice sounds. It’s hard to believe that this is the same man who stormed through the band’s hits in the 1980s – on Solsbury Hill and too many other tracks here to mention he sounds like he’s sleepwalking.
The problem lies in the fact that nothing substantially new has been added to these songs. It’s a karaoke album in effect, with the trademark Erasure tinny keyboard sound dominating proceedings. So when you tackle classics such as You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling and Can’t Help Falling In Love, you’re inevitably going to come off as second best.
At least on tracks such as Ebb Tide, Bell sounds like he’s putting his heart and soul into the song, and the high energy arrangement actually make it sound like the band’s own record. However on Come Up And See Me (Make Me Smile), the boys actually manage to make the version recently recorded by the Fame Academy wannabes sound engaging. It’s a blessed relief when the final track, Video Killed The Radio Star (recorded with the by now obligatory vocoders) has finished. Then again, it’s 41 minutes of your life you’re never going to get back.
It’s unclear why Erasure felt the need to make a covers album. In Vince Clarke, they have a highly competent songwriter who has a track record of making quality pop records over the last twenty years. The Abba-esque EP was a big hit, and with the public’s seemingly insatiable appetite for karaoke cover versions, this could well repeat the success. But these are Other People’s Songs for a reason, and one listen to this album should convince you of the folly of trying to borrow them.