Intervention Records has continued its (Re)Discover series of pristine vinyl recreations of classic LPs with an album of eighties vintage that just might send you down the rabbit hole. It's possible to get lost in Erasure's Wonderland thanks to Intervention's recent 30th anniversary presentation of songwriter-keyboardist Vince Clarke and singer-songwriter Andy Bell's collection of crystalline synth-pop.
Clarke was known for his work with Depeche Mode and as one-half with Alison Moyet of Yazoo (Yaz in the U.S.) when he found Bell, somewhat unbelievably, by placing a newspaper advertisement. The two men hit it off, and launched Erasure on a journey that continues to this day. Primarily written by the duo, with two songs from Clarke solo and one from Bell solo, Wonderland made for a lively and memorable debut. It was released in 1986 on Sire in the U.S. and Mute in the U.K. when Erasure was on the cusp of their breakthrough and a career which continues to this day. The bold, unfussy and slick production by Flood (U2, Depeche Mode) epitomizes the electronic "eighties" sound, and while there's not a tremendous amount of variety in the sonic textures (that would come later for Erasure), the album's sparkling pop confections make up for it.
Clarke's "Who Needs Love Like That?" looked back on a doomed relationship with a certain amount of acid, a Motown-influenced beat and brassy synth horns. It proved an ideal opener to establish the tone of Wonderland - effortlessly catchy and easy on the ears. Unsurprisingly, it was released as Erasure's first single, preceding even the album's release. It didn't attract much attention on the U.K. Singles Chart in its initial run (No. 55), but a 1992 remix saw it shoot to the Top 10. It fared best on the U.S.' Dance/Club Play Songs Chart, with a No. 8 placement, and left American fans "dancing across the nation," as the lyric goes to the album's "Love is a Loser."
Bell's "Cry So Easy" slowed the proceedings down a bit, showcasing his distinctive, dramatic and mannered vocals influenced by Clarke's onetime musical partner Alison Moyet. The lovelorn "My Heart...So Blue" also adds a bit of moody atmosphere. The second single off Wonderland, the shimmering "Heavenly Action," is a bright and upbeat paean to romance. It charted in the top 10 on a double-sided 12-inch single with "Who Needs Love" on the U.S. Dance chart.
The beat-heavy "Say What" with its call-and-response vocals added a muscular edge to the LP, while the third single "Oh L'amour" went to No. 3 on the U.S. Dance survey and belatedly became a U.K. Top 20 hit in remixed form (to tie in with a greatest hits album) in 2003. "L'amour" juxtaposes its yearning, heartbroken lyric with another shiny, upbeat and club-ready dance track. Erasure subtly but powerfully broke ground with its music; as early as 1986, the year of Wonderland's release, the openly gay Bell noted to the press that "I won't portray a heterosexual in videos and we're consciously doing lyrics that could apply to either sex."
Intervention's reissue, remastered by Kevin Gray at Cohearant Audio, brings newfound clarity to the thumping beats and searing synth lines, and finds tremendous detail in the vocals, making for a pressing that sounds new and fresh despite the period sound. The sonic vibrancy of this pressing befits the bold sheen of the music; it's been sourced, per the label, from 30-ips tapes that are marked both "Master" and "Production Copy." Whichever is actually the case, there's no doubt of Intervention's assertion that "these are the best and perhaps only existing analog tapes" for Wonderland.
This new LP re-presents the original U.S. version of the album as first released on Sire Records, though artistically it retains the custom Mute Records label ("This record belongs to...") from the original U.K. issue. The U.S. release dropped the tracks "Push Me Shove Me" and "Pistol," and added the driving, anthemic "March on Down the Line" which was originally the flip of "Oh L'amour" in the U.K. and appeared in a remixed version on the U.K. CD release of Wonderland. The 180-gram vinyl LP is housed in a protective sleeve within the sturdy Stoughton-printed jacket.
Who needs love like that? Both audiophile and casual fans of both vinyl and Erasure would be well-advised to give a spin to Intervention's beautifully-presented trip to Wonderland.
- Who Needs Love Like That
- Cry So Easy
- Heavenly Action
- Say What
- Love is a Loser
- March On Down the Line
- My Heart...So Blue
- Oh, L'Amour