From the mid ’80s to the mid ’90s, Erasure, together with Depeche Mode and the Pet Shop Boys, pretty much defined synthpop. As time marched on, that conclusiveness became a cross, and the London duo rarely acknowledged club and electronica trends. Produced and partially played by Frankmusik, an English electropop upstart half their age, and mixed by Robert Orton, who twiddled the knobs for Lady Gaga’s The Fame, singer Andy Bell and keyboardist Vince Clarke’s 14th album changes that, finding the pair sounding like the synthpop kids who sound like them. It’s relentlessly catchy, like just about everything in Erasure’s catalog, but it’s also adamantly loud. While most Erasure hits accentuate the treble, Tomorrow’s World lays consistently heavy on the bass.
Bell’s voice has also deepened. Where he once smoothly crooned in an androgynous tenor, he now belts in a veteran Broadway baritone, and AutoTune is unmistakably in the house. His sentiments are sometimes streamlined to the point of inelegance: “Everything is physical, it really turns me on,” he gushes in the opening track “Be With You.” But Erasure’s sincerity and simplicity have always ranked high among its attributes, and on future anthems like “Fill Us with Fire,” Clarke’s unerring way with melody elevates the uneven performances. There’s no mistaking Tomorrow’s World for the duo’s early classics like The Circus or The Innocents; its blunt physicality puts it more line with La Roux, or Frankmusik’s own output. Bell and Clarke have aged gracefully elsewhere; this is Erasure eating its young.