Established in London in 1985, enduring alternative dance duo Erasure combine the talents of emotive, broad-ranged vocalist Andy Bell and synth idol Vince Clarke, previously a founding member of Depeche Mode and Yazoo. Like those bands, Erasure is a synth-based group, but with stronger, more house-oriented dance inclinations, as well as a sharp, accessible sense of pop songcraft. After making their debut with 1986's Wonderland, the duo's third album, 1988's The Innocents, proved to be their U.S. breakthrough, offering the Top 20 singles "Chains of Love" and "A Little Respect." They reached the Top 20 again in 1994 with the international hit "Always," then remained a regular Billboard 200 act with occasional singles landing on the club charts. While Erasure were successful in their native Britain from their inception, they had their first U.K. Top Ten album in 20 years with 2017's World Be Gone, their 17th studio LP. As one of the first openly gay performers in pop music, Bell's status as a gay icon only increased with the longevity of the band.
Before forming Erasure, Clarke was one of the founding members of the groundbreaking synth pop outfit Depeche Mode. He left after recording only one album with the group, choosing to form Yaz with Alison Moyet instead. After Yaz released two albums, Moyet left to pursue a solo career. Clarke participated in a short-lived alliance with vocalist Feargal Sharkey and producer Eric Radcliffe called the Assembly in 1984. Following a single with vocalist Paul Quinn, he decided to form Erasure. Clarke placed an advertisement for vocalists in a British music newspaper and received over 40 demo tapes -- he selected Bell as his partner.
Released in 1986, Erasure's first album, Wonderland, just barely cracked the U.K. Top 75. The duo quickly followed it with "Sometimes," a preview from their forthcoming second album. "Sometimes" reached number two on the U.K. charts, beginning a string of successful singles that would run into the 2000s. The Circus was released in the spring of 1987 and peaked at number six on the U.K. charts. The Innocents, Erasure's third album, became their first number one album in Britain upon its release in 1988. The record featured the group's first American hit, "Chains of Love," which reached number 12 in the U.S.; its follow-up, "A Little Respect," peaked at number 14 in America. At the end of 1988, Erasure released the Crackers International EP, which reached number two in Britain.
Erasure's fourth album, Wild!, appeared in 1989, and like its predecessor, reached number one in the U.K., as did its successor, 1991's Chorus. Erasure released the Abba-Esque EP, a tribute to the Swedish pop group ABBA, in 1992; it became their first number one single in the U.K. Later that year, Erasure released a compilation of their British singles, Pop! The First 20 Hits. Two years later, the duo released their fifth album, I Say I Say I Say, which featured the hit single "Always," their first American hit since 1988. Erasure's eponymous sixth album was released in the fall of 1995. It was followed in the spring of 1997 by Cowboy. Loveboat surfaced three years later.
The all-covers Other People's Songs appeared in 2003, the same year as the oddly chosen compilation Hits! Before the release of 2005's "return-to-form" album Nightbird, Bell revealed he was HIV positive and had been since June of 1998. The 2006 LP Union Street found Erasure unplugging and re-recording old album tracks and B-sides with acoustic instruments. A tour with a full band supported the record and was documented on the 2007 live release On the Road to Nashville. Later in the year, another return-to-form album, Light at the End of the World, arrived. Tomorrow's World followed in 2011 with the duo handing production over to Frankmusik, whose previous work included Lady Gaga and the Pet Shop Boys. In 2013, they released Snow Globe, a holiday album featuring new songs from the group along with some classic Christmas carols. A return to their club-oriented work of their earlier years, the dancefloor-ready The Violet Flame followed in 2014 with production from Richard X.
Following celebrations of their 30th anniversary as a band in 2015, Erasure released their 17th long-player in 2017. World Be Gone responded to the upheaval of the late 2010s with positive, proactive songs. Accompanied by a summer stadium tour with Robbie Williams, it returned Erasure to the U.K. Top Ten for the first time in 20 years, reaching number six. They followed it in early 2018 with World Beyond, a re-recording of World Be Gone arranged for Bell and the Belgian chamber ensemble Echo Collective. Recorded across two nights at London's Eventim Apollo as part of an extensive world tour, World Be Live arrived close behind in mid-2018. Featuring vocals recorded by Bell in Atlanta, Georgia, and entirely self-produced, the more joyous, club-oriented The Neon followed in mid-2020. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine & Marcy Donelson