Bell says he needed time to reflect on what it was they were creating. Up until the compilation album came out. he never had the chance to stand back and stop running ‘the marathon’ as he calls it. The extreme chaos of the ‘Phantasmogorical‘ tour seriously frightened him. and both he and (‘larke decided they needed time to take stock.
Two years later they returned with I Say I Say ISay. which. despite reaching the Number One chart position. sounded too much like self—parody —- formulaic pop gone sterile. liven Smash Hits declared the single ‘Run To The Sun' as ‘too much like the theme music to Sonic The lledgehog‘. lf pop was out. maybe it was time for lirasure to take themselves more seriously. In 1995 they came back with the darker. more brooding sound of ‘7()- minute art rock concept album‘ Erasure. liven though The Guardian described the accompanying single ‘Stay With Me‘ as ‘morc beautiful than this world deserves‘. Bell and Clarke recognised the whole thing was a little too self-indulgent.
‘The last album was more about us making music and enjoying ourselves. having time to experiment.‘ reckons Bell with hindsight. ‘We put ourselves through the mill a bit on Erasure. thinking we could have a nine- minute single. but it didn‘t really work out. We got a bit confused. especially on tracks like ‘Fingers And 'l‘humbs‘. throwing so much stuff in there that we didn’t really know what was going on. You couldn't decipher the main melody or single within the track.‘
With the new album Cowboy. Bell and Clarke went out with the implicit desire to write as many ultra-pop songs as they could. The result: eleven sing-a—long love songs. none taking tip more than four minutes of your precious time. There is more confidence in the songs. a realisation that there‘s no shame in making a tune that people will be able to recite word for word. note for note after one hearing. The instant nature of the early material is embedded in the new work. but with a fresh. wide-eyed vision to the future.
Cow/my also saw input by producer Neil McLellan. who added a freshness to the team by bringing in new ideas and opening Clarke up to the possibilities of sampling. This looseness is something that Bell hopes to work on in the future.
‘l'd like to get into the studio now and encourage Vince not be so . . . how do l say . .
precious.‘ he says. ‘Vincc has this pop habit of filling all the spaces as much as he can. and the beauty with Yazoo was there was so much space. We did work together at the beginning. for about three or four albums; then. just
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because of the consuming time in the studio. we thought it would be more convenient if he did the music in one place and I did the vocals somewhere else. It's quite boring and Vince doesn‘t like me singing and I don‘t like him playing. working on one note for eight hours. I’m just as bad and can sing a song forever. do 80 takes when usually three is enough.‘
With the impending tour promoting (‘mv/mv and parading their return to form. the duo have decided not to go quite so ridicu-
lously over—the—top as in previous concerts — no entrances riding swans or dressing up as maps of the world. It is. however. still going to be quite theatrical: Bell has visualised ‘a post- nuclear Western with a gospel flavour‘. After this tour. he wants to pare live proceedings down even more.
‘Before I met Vince. l was in a band with another guy who played bass and we had all the rest on tape. But the few things I’ve done with live bands I've really enjoyed. l‘d quite like to have drums and a bit of thrash guitar.
: I l l
Cowboys: Andy Bell and Vince Clarke shoot from the hip
We did do some acoustic songs on the last tour and it really gives you room to be able to sing. With the programmed tracks. all the tempos are set. and it‘s the same each night. You can’t improvise on them and you feel a bit clockwork.
‘I feel a bit frustrated sometimes.‘ he complains. ‘lt‘s never about my voice. and I do think 1 have a really beautiful voice. I get a little bit upset when people say. “It's the latest high—energy. high-warble. with a rip—roaring chorus. Erasure-kinda thing.” It‘s a lot to do with the fact that we are seen as a synthesizer band.‘
While many have loved to hate Erasure lately. now it's not going to be so easy.
Erasure play the SECC, Glasgow, Tue 15 Apr. Cowboy is out now on the Mute label.
4—17Apr 1997 THE “ST 15