In the Hall of the Mountain King [From "Peer Gynt Suite" No. 1 Opus] - Erasure, Grieg, Edvard
Sometimes [Extended Mix][*]
It Doesn't Have to Be [The Boop Oopa Doo Mix][*]
Erasure's second album, 1987's The Circus is one of their most uncompromising in several ways. The duo's most unfailingly dancefloor-oriented release, much of The Circus consists of in-your-face Hi-Nrg disco beats largely ... more »unvarnished by the pop savvy of later singles like 'Stop!' or 'Chains Of Love'. Similarly, The Circus finds singer Andy Bell in complete control of Erasure's lyrics--much of 1986's Wonderland had been written solely by partner Vince Clarke--and the emphatically gay singer bluntly tackles major themes on songs like 'It Doesn't Have To Be' and 'Hideaway'. A powerful, sometimes unsettling album. Mute.« less
Erasure's second album, 1987's The Circus is one of their most uncompromising in several ways. The duo's most unfailingly dancefloor-oriented release, much of The Circus consists of in-your-face Hi-Nrg disco beats largely unvarnished by the pop savvy of later singles like 'Stop!' or 'Chains Of Love'. Similarly, The Circus finds singer Andy Bell in complete control of Erasure's lyrics--much of 1986's Wonderland had been written solely by partner Vince Clarke--and the emphatically gay singer bluntly tackles major themes on songs like 'It Doesn't Have To Be' and 'Hideaway'. A powerful, sometimes unsettling album. Mute.
"It's really sad, the number of times I have seen The Circus in used CD bins over the years. In a lot of ways, this is one of Erasure's strongest albums. As most people know, Wonderland, their first album, was something of a dud. The follow-up, Circus, is the first album to establish the "Erasure" sound throughout. More importantly, it tackles a lot of social issues without being preachy or precious, an uncanny ability Erasure always had. During the course of Circus, we hear about racial injustice (It Doesn't Have to Be), homophobia (Hideaway), peace & harmony (If I Could), and the plight of the working class (The Circus). However, with their catchy hooks, lyrics, and Andy's fine singing, you have enough else to concentrate on without feeling "preached" to!The album opens with It Doesn't Have to Be, which didn't get any airplay in America (at least in my memory), but is one of their best songs, in my opinion. Apart from being just a great song overall, it draws upon African percussion rhythms, and even has Andy singing in Swahili(?). Everytime I hear it, I think of the video, where he is waving the sparklers around. Next comes Hideaway, which has a lot of personal meaning for me as a gay man, although fortunately I wasn't "rejected by the people that I cared for!" Aside from the subject matter, it's another good song. Don't Dance seems to be a favorite with other reviewers, and I have to agree. It's a testimony to Erasure's talent that even the "non-singles" can sound this good. If I Could, which comes after, is another one that affects me. The song seems to be about a broken relationship, but the refrain, "If I could make the world a little better, you know I would," suggests something else entirely- a heartfelt cry for world peace. Sexuality is a notch below the rest, only because sonically it's somewhat jumbled. On the other hand, it's one of their most provocative songs ever, with lyrics like, "let's not pretend you're shy about it" and "strip it, do it". Victim of Love, which actually was a radio hit, is one of their most soulful ever. They tap into R&B and Soul, with such lyrics as "I'm gonna find you out." Leave Me to Bleed is another non-single that tops them all, a great song to listen to if you've ever been jilted by somebody.
Sometimes was another radio hit- did any other synth-pop group use a saxophone melody like that? The Circus, while not an obvious choice for a single, is a stroke of genius, in how it mixes a "carnival" sound with such grave lyrics about the disenfranchisement of the working man. The album "proper" ends with Spiralling, which for my tastes could have been left off altogether, though it has its fans. The bonus tracks, sadly, are all duds. In the Hall of the Mountain King is just Vince Clarke's electro-reworking of a classical tune. And the remixes of Sometimes and It Doesn't Have to Be are nothing special, just your standard 80's "extended" mix, which doesn't reveal any new facet of the song, or make it danceable. It doesn't matter, though, because the album itself is so strong.If you think that Erasure's glory days begin with The Innocents, Wild!, or Chorus, think again."
Erasure's First... True Album
Eric Dapkewicz | Los Angeles, CA USA | 07/26/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I love "Wonderland", but consider it to be way too similiar to Yazoo (which Clarke had just came from). So "The Circus" is really the album that begins to give us a good understanding of Erasure - the band. From the hip "It Doesn't Have To Be" to the soft "Spiralling", this album has it all. And it is actually a concept album of all things. There's hints in the music from "Don't Dance" to "Spiralling" that lead all back to the actual song "The Circus". What I love about Erasure, is that they often have a number of songs on each album that are just as good as their singles or better. "Hideaway", "Leave Me To Bleed" and "Spiralling" are tracks that were never heard on the radio, but they are three of my favorite tracks from the album. There are hits as well like "Sometimes" and "Victim Of Love". If you are interested in Erasure and don't have this album, get it. You won't be disappointed."
The Greatest Show on Earth?
The Groove | Boston, MA | 10/27/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Erasure has named their second album "The Circus," in which Vince Clarke and Andy Bell are ringmasters of a show filled with synth pop bliss that's deeper than it appears. "Victim of Love," "Sometimes," and "It Doesn't Have to Be" are catchy, sugarcoated songs that have as much to offer in melody and craft as they do in hooks. The most attention-getting track is "Hideaway" whose lyrics tell the story of a gay teen coming to terms with his sexuality and the society that rejects him. It's not really that deep a social commentary on homophobia, but the song still passes with flying colors. Other favorite tracks are the title song and the gloomy "Leave Me to Bleed." A record like this should have made Erasure a flash-in-the-pan synth act whose appeal wouldn't last beyond the 1980s. But this fine record would lay as the foundation of a long and successful career that makes this duo among the most enduring and consistent in UK pop."
Erasure comes into their own
Max T. Shea | Amherst, MA | 07/25/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I was enthralled with Vince Clarke since I discovered Depeche Mode's "Speak & Spell" and the Yazoo records in the early '80s. I immediately loved Erasure's debut album "Wonderland" for the very reason an earlier reviewer said he liked it less than "The Circus" -- it was essentially the third Yazoo album with Andy Bell instead of Alison Moyet. It took me a bit longer to warm up to "The Circus." I listened to this album a great deal in the torrid summer of 1988. It was 21 years ago as it is now: I always wanted to like Erasure more than I do.
"The Circus" presents a brand of synth-driven blue-eyed soul, which is the best thing about Erasure. Sometimes the sound is sexy and celebratory, as on "Sometimes" and "Sexuality," other times it is melancholy, as on "If I Could" and "The Circus." Clarke, ably assisted by Flood, was adroit at retaining the robotic synthesizer rhythms I loved so well in Depeche Mode, but tempering these with soulful hooks and sugary electronic washes. Perhaps it was Clarke's intention to give the "Circus" a festive circus-like atmosphere on songs such as "Don't Dance" and "It Doesn't Have to Be."
"The Circus" is at its strongest on the title track, which is a labor ballad dressed in circus organ sounds structured in doleful staccato fashion, eerily reminiscent of Dell Shannon. Other great songs are the bilious "Leave Me to Bleed" and the homoerotic anthems "Sexuality" and "Sometimes."
The trouble with "The Circus" is Andy Bell's faltering vocal range in some parts. He tends to lose control on low notes and seems to have difficulty recovering. There is also a lack of depth in the production, which gives the music a flat sound.
My reason for giving "The Circus" three rather than four stars is rather biased. On "The Circus," Erasure establish themselves as a gay-identity band, most exemplified by the painful coming out song "Hideaway." This was certainly a smart direction for them and I think it has contributed to their 20+ years of sustained popularity. The gay audience, I have observed, is a loyal audience who will buy records and tickets. However, as a heterosexual, it is a lifestyle in which I will never be a participant, so I feel like an outsider peering in.
This did not happen with The Smiths, which will always be one of my favorites, because Morrissey's lyrics were nuanced so I could identify with them on themes such as general alienation and feeling like the perpetual outsider. Andy Bell presents a simpler persona than does Morrissey.
Furthermore, I found subsequent records, such as "Wild" and "Cowboy," and the odious "Abba-esque" to present a Village People level of pandering to their fan base that was indistinguishable from satire.
The Erasure music that really grabbed me after 1990 was the album "I Say, I Say, I Say" with its impeccably superb production by Martyn Ware, and the song "Rock Me Gently" for the sweetness of its intrinsic beauty.
The other day I finally bought a second-hand CD of "The Circus" at a sidewalk sale and, as stated above, I wanted to like it more than I did, though I still liked it a lot. "The Circus" takes its place in the canon of pop records in which I staked a personal claim as a teen, and will always enjoy."