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Cowboy Review

by Ned Raggett

The calmer inner meditations of Erasure behind them, the duo found themselves on Madonna's label in America and released the notably more upbeat Cowboy in 1997. The zeitgeist that the duo perfectly encapsulated in the late '80s had long been left behind, resulting in an album that sounds like it wants to keep the party going when all the guests had long gone home. While Erasure itself could drag here and there, it was still an honestly intriguing combination of new and old for the band, something the pleasant (but little more than that) Cowboy can't claim. At base, the problem is that while the basic Erasure knack of hummable hooks and fine singing remains unchanged, something seems missing -- what made songs like "A Little Respect," "Stop!," and "Chorus" more than enjoyably catchy pop isn't there. Cowboy is amiable but not memorable. Vince Clarke to his credit doggedly resists flat out following current pop trends in the hopes of greater relevance, so there's something to be said for sticking to one's guns. His usual preferred combination of gentler lead synths and rougher bass tones sounds enjoyably supple as well, with perhaps the only concession to late-'90s pop being a greater use of hip-hop beats. Andy Bell's voice as always hits its fine sweet-sounding heights. But beyond a cut or two, very little honestly connects beyond that, sad to say. "In My Arms," released as a single, has an attractive air to it, with a nicely sweeping chorus, but feels a little too relaxed, not as flat out energetic as it could be.

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