Following a holiday album (2013's Snow Globe) with this "return to form" album means veteran duo Erasure are now on the cliched career revival path for aging pop stars, but maybe it's just by chance. Make that "likely," as The Violet Flame gets right down to dancey, inspired business on its opening "Dead of Night," a track that pumps with the beat of any given single off the duo's great 1989 album Wild!. Classic lyrics from Andy Bell speak to the morality play that club night can be ("Too many times you're forgiven/Now you cry like you're the victim") then the chorus is like a pair of bright red cha-cha heels (a joyful stuttering of "D-d-d-dead of night") that won't be ignored. If hearing Bell in his Maleficent costume is a decadent kind of delicious, he's still an excellent Sleeping Beauty as well, as the pumping "Paradise" welcomes a new soul mate with open arms and open heart. Synth man Vince Clarke is simpatico in these back-to-the-future surroundings, as the great "Be the One" sounds like he plundered the computer and found some early sketches of Yaz's "Only You." while "Under the Wave" could be seamlessly mixed with all the minimal bleeping and blooping on Depeche Mode's debut album Speak & Spell, also known as Clarke's last hurrah with the band. The big anthem this time out is "Elevation," a cut with the simplicity of Robin S's "Show Me Love" and lyrics preaching freedom to the dancing masses ("It makes you kinda wonder, what are we supposed to do/When the fate of many, is guided by the hand of few/Who-o-oa."), then there's the closing "Stayed a Little Late Last Night" and the heart-breaking "Smoke and Mirrors," both serving the roles of a soul-filling number that sticks to the bones. With all the elements in place, the late-era The Violet Flame sits on the top shelf of Erasure albums, and considering all the greatness in the back catalog, that's no easy task.
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries