Wednesday 4 December 2013

Review: Erasure – 'Snow Globe'

'Snow Globe' 

The legendary synthpop duo of Vince Clarke and Andy Bell have an enviable back catalogue of musical gems housed within their fourteen studio albums and multiple EP and single releases. However for album number fifteen the duo have turned their attention to the festive season and recorded a multitude of Christmas songs. It's not the first Christmas release in the band's history (see the 'Crackers International' EP which narrowly missed out on the coveted number one spot in 1988), but it is the first full-length festive offering which sees the band take on a range of traditional and recent covers.

A lot of people will typically be thinking this is going to be synthpop renditions of 'Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer' and whatnot in the style of 'Abba-esque', with no original tracks of the band's own compositions. However Clarke and Bell have plenty of new songs on offer. 'Bells Of Love (Isabelle's Of Love)', 'Make It Wonderful', 'Loving Man', 'Blood on the Snow', and 'There'll Be No Tomorrow' all display the distinctive and high-quality song writing that we'd come to expect; strong lead melodies coupled with body-moving grooves and the big sing-a-long choruses see them stand-up alongside the band's previous hits. They may not all be Christmas songs as such, yet there is no denying that they fit the tradition of the music we'd expect this time of year.

The covers aren't quite what you'd expect either. The lead single 'Gaudete' is a traditional Latin carol usually song to minimal accompaniment or madrigal style (a la The Mediaeval Baebes). However Bell breaks out his best choirboy voice, as Clarke provides a danceable backing track. It's short but very strong and should be a contender for the Christmas number one spot if there is any justice. The band also throw a couple of curve balls with the chip-tune take on 'The Christmas Song' (Mel Tormé, Robert Wells), the huge sounding version of Gustav Holst's 'In The Bleak Midwinter', and the lullaby style of 'White Christmas'.

This won't be everyone's cup of tea by any stretch. Those in particular who loathe the themed output of this time of year will probably want to avoid it. However, for anyone willing to take the plunge, there is no doubt that the band have worked their magic once again. The original compositions are varied and strong, while the covers are fresh and interesting without losing their familiarity. It goes to show that even if you think you have a band pinned down, they can still pull something out of the bag to surprise you.

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