Mute/Sire, 1989


REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


The two pop acts who ended the ’80s on the best possible artistic note were Madonna and the British duo Erasure. However, while Madonna’s Like A Prayer earned accolades by the critics and public alike, Erasure’s Wild! was discarded and forgotten about entirely.

In retrospect, this is what we in the business call a shame. Especially when you take Erasure’s lackluster material from the last decade into account, Wild! stands tall as one of their very best.

Underrated is an accurate word to describe both Erasure and Pet Shop Boys. Sure, they both have a dedicated fan base and a large cult following, but little else to show for their 20 years in the music business. Still, their longevity is remarkable, even if they’ve never been able to experience mass appeal. Both acts have never strayed from their electronic music formula, and they both have lead singers who are openly gay -- while that gets old with some people, I was one of the few who kept coming back for more.

After the breakthrough success of The Innocents in 1988, many critics wondered if Erasure’s follow-up would be just as impressive. When Wild! was first released, it came as somewhat of a shock to those who those who had gotten used to Erasure’s harmless, campy songs and colorful live shows. Harder-edged in style, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Wild! has often been called their techno concept album, but I would consider it their artistic statement.

(A side note: For whatever reason, I’ve often noticed that straight people typically have an aversion to dance music, except for college kids who are into the rave scene. Sure, Paula Abdul had her day, but look how long she lasted. Now, even when someone as big as Madonna goes back to her dance floor roots, the public at large tends to shut down. It just makes me wonder if you can attribute this lack of interest to homophobia or to lazy people who don’t know how to dance).

Anyway. Regardless of exactly why most Americans turned a deaf ear to Wild!, the album did go straight to No. 1 in Britain and spawned a large-scale tour of the same name. The “Piano Song” intro is a trick teaser for the listener, slyly placed by Andy Bell and Vince Clarke, but just when you think this is another mellow Erasure affair you are blindsided by monster tracks like “Drama,” “Star” and “Brother And Sister.”

“Drama” is the fastest song Erasure has ever recorded, beginning with a thunderclap and building to an exciting climax, all made even greater by the video that was made for it. Only Andy Bell can handle a mouthful lyric like “one psychological drama after another” and make it mean something.

To slow down the frenetic pace just a tad, “You Surround Me” is a techno ballad to die for and is just as intense as “Drama.” It contains a cascading melody that simply glows. File this one under Overlooked Masterpieces. As strong as “You Surround Me” was, other slower tunes like “How Many Times” and the bloated “Crown Of Thorns” don’t fare quite as well and disrupt the momentum of the rest of the album. Though the elegant harps are an interesting choice, “How Many Times” suffers from Andy singing in an awkward lower register.

About the only misstep on this otherwise solid disc is “La Gloria,” a ridiculous flamenco number that is so misplaced and out of character (especially for the deadpan Vince Clarke) that the only involuntary response you can give it is laughter. If they intended Wild! to be their serious artistic statement, it almost goes out the window with this one.

But remove it, and you've got one of the ’80s most underrated discs and one of the band’s best works, which was only topped by their next album, the brilliant Chorus.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2006 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Mute/Sire, and is used for informational purposes only.