Andy Bell

Electric Blue

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As delicious as it would be to hear the voice of Erasure covering the Icehouse chestnut that shares the name of his debut full-length, it's not to be. The minor disappointment deserves a sigh, but Electric Blue is a wonderful collection of chirpy, effervescent dancefloor motivation that's a perfect tonic for Erasure's melancholy and deeper than expected Nightbird. With mere months separating them, it's hard not to think about Nightbird while listening to Electric Blue. Nightbird was a cathartic release, Andy Bell coming to terms with a public, HIV-positive announcement. Electric Blue is about moving on by getting back to business -- dancefloor business, hip-shaking business, and insinuating lyrics over hooky music business. "Shake My Soul"'s "please stop your cheating" over a glorious B-52's meets neo-gospel meets Vince Clarke beat is just one great example of the latter on this lyric-filled album, but you can find Bell wryly twisting the knife with a killer quip just about anywhere you drop the laser. No disrespect whatsoever, but Clarke isn't missed as much as you'd think, perhaps because collaborators Manhattan Clique are either doing a fine impression of him or offering something of their own, mostly '80s-flavored. The guest appearances from Propaganda's Claudia Brucken and the Scissor Sisters' Jake Shears pump up the '80s factor, but this isn't a nostalgia affair as much as a meeting of like-minded synth pop lovers, and every vocal collaboration yields a remarkable highlight. Topping it off is the perfect kickoff single, "Crazy," which is a triumphant earworm equal to any Erasure single you care to mention. The album might be a song or two too long for everyone but the faithful, but ballads and more risky exercises in knob-twiddling temper the thumping tracks, and some modern-day advances in studio wizardry represent the 21st century just fine. Like "Love Oneself" says, "it's a pleasure to be here," and downright blissful if you're a fan.

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