Mute America (MUTE 9200-2; 724596920022)
Release Date: January 14, 2003
The lead-off single for Erasure's new album Other People's Songs is a cover of the Peter Gabriel classic "Solsbury Hill." The US version of the single contains four versions of this song, plus two new original songs, a recording of "Ave Maria," and an exclusive mix of "Video Killed The Radio Star."
The album version of "Solsbury Hill" is somewhat typical of more recent Erasure material – lots of obscure blips and whistles in the background that don't really seem to contribute anything individually, but when layered together provide an unusual form of percussion. By contrast, the Radio Mix filters out many of these anomalous blips, pushes the regular drumbeat higher in the mix, and slightly picks up the tempo. The 37B Mix is a mellower approach to the song than the radio or album versions, more in the vein of the original track. Finally, the Manhattan Clique Extended Mix zeros in on the dance floor potential of the album version and enhances it with a slew of samples from earlier Erasure singles (including, but not limited to, "Supernature," "Victim Of Love," and "Stop!").
"Tell It To Me" is the stronger of the two original tracks on this disc. Due to the nature of the album this single comes from, it is understandable why the song doesn't appear on the album (as it isn't a cover), but a disappointment nonetheless that it is relegated to being a b-side only. The song has a natural flow to it, carrying the listener along. "Searching," on the other hand, lives up to its name. It feels more like the instrumental b-sides Erasure put out during the Chorus album era, but with a vocal track layered on top; the two styles never really find the middle ground that they seem to be searching for.
The single also presents an exclusive remix of "Video Killed The Radio Star." Musically, this track is incredibly simple, though fittingly so. The intensely processed lead vocal track (it's performed by computer rather than being sung by Andy Bell) is a little disorienting at first, but it takes the song a step beyond what the Buggles originally intended, creating a paradoxical condemnation of the over-mechanization of music while simultaneously embracing such mechanism.
The disc closes with a piano and vocal rendition of Bach's "Ave Maria"; rarely has Andy's voice been showcased so clearly. While a large portion of Erasure's fanbase is clearly made up of electronics aficionados, this track clearly shows that the human component of Erasure's material is just as important; Andy may not have the vocal skills of Pavarotti, but he can outclass many of today's manufactured pop stars.
The disc also contains a computer video file of a short film made by Vince, Andy, and some friends, entitled "Dr. Jeckyll and Mistress Hyde." It's a mostly silent film about a transvestite scientist on a murder spree. The less said about it, the better.
This single's biggest success is the fact that it completely avoids focusing on lesser quality "club" mixes that seem to be little more than a drumbeat (such as many of the singles from the previous three US albums did). The variety of material, from the club-stomping Manhattan Clique remix, to the simply arranged 37B Mix of "Video Killed The Radio Star," to the exquisite vocal performance on "Ave Maria," provides a person listening to the disc at home a much more enjoyable experience.
(reviewed by Daniel Aeschliman on February 17, 2003)
This enhanced CD single includes a short film ("Dr. Jeckyll and Mistress Hyde")
"Solsbury Hill" written by Peter Gabriel
"Tell It To Me" and "Searching" written by Vince Clarke & Andy Bell
"Video Killed The Radio Star" written by Geoffrey Downes, Trevor Horne, and Bruce Woolley
"Ave Maria" written by Bach/Gounod, arranged by Vince Clarke & Andy Bell
All songs produced by Andy Bell, Vince Clarke, and Gareth Jones
"Solsbury Hill" remixed by Spikey B, and Chris Smith and Philip Larsen
"Dr. Jeckyll and Mistress Hyde" directed by Vince Clarke