in 1991, Erasure released what I feel to be their best album: Chorus is a nearly perfect dance/pop album. So, what could Erasure do next? What else could they do that they hadn’t in Chorus? And would the new album hold to their high standards? Vince Clarke and Andy Bell answered these questions by releasing ABBA-Esque. With this four-track EP, Erasure covers ABBA in a most joyous fashion.
Erasure has always made known their fandom for ABBA. A staple in Erasure’s concerts has always been an ABBA cover or two. So, it makes sense that Erasure would go about an ABBA tribute EP. Fun fact, ABBA-Esque was supposed to be a full-length album. However, Clarke and Bell decided to reduce the project down to a four-track track EP, showcasing covers of a handful of ABBA’s most popular dance hits. No matter the length of the release, when Erasure Covers ABBA, the results are magical.
Lay All Your Love on Me
The start of Lay All Your Love on Me sound resembles an acapella ensemble. Certainly a different opening than the faux strings on the original ABBA version. Of course, this intro only lasts a few bars. A few seconds into the song and Erasure pumps up the synths and gets into a serious disco vibe. Mind you, the synths of Erasure sound more like mid 90s synths, as opposed to the early 80s original version. However, the beats and the instruments remain true to the original. Oh, and the addition of the drum machine really adds a nice touch!
There’s one other change in Erasure’s cover of Lay All Your Love on Me. In the original, lead vocalist Agnetha Fältskog is joined by the other three members of ABBA during the chorus. The results are an almost choral sound. In contrast, Andy Bell only harmonizes with himself. A curious choice, considering how Erasure begins the song. Regardless, Lay All Your Love on Me serves as a fitting tribute to the original.
Again, Erasure starts their cover of the original ABBA song differently. This time, however, the main difference between the original and cover is the tempo. The original S.O.S. has a slow tempo to start, almost like a ballad. For the chorus, the original speeds up the tempo quite a bit. However, Erasure starts S.O.S. at full speed and doesn’t switch tempos between the chorus and the verses. The results are decidedly less dramatic as the ABBA version.
Of course, S.O.S,. as covered by Erasure, has a few other subtle differences. The synths are once again updated to a mid-90s sound. With that said, Erasure does a much better job at harmonizing on S.O.S. than they did with Lay All Your Love on Me. Andy Bell still harmonizes with himself, but harmonizing sounds a bit more full-bodied.
Take a Chance On Me
Both Bell and Clarke sing on Take a Chance on Me. Fitting, as the original ABBA version featured both Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. The tempo of the two songs are similar. Even the synths on the Erasure version, while updated, sound a lot more reminiscent to the ABBA original as do other songs.
Oh, but there is one major addition by Erasure. At about two-thirds of the way through the song, we hear this ragga style rap interlude (care of MC Kinky):
If you like what you’re seeing take a chance with me, ya!
You won’t be grabbed if you’re feeling horny
Well, you’ve passes so you got to know this precious property
I don’t know the lads, so call me MC K
Nobody sits, understand me clearly
However hard he try, could he never own me
We all fit nice and just move freely
Special K, what he says all said carefully
Me not sit all along and just wait by phone
Not call me ’cause me never, never home ya
Machinegun as we get the wrong one
Master Mark, master Paul, mister Luke and John
If we like what we see we chance a situation
Nothing don’t pay nothing, maybe see what follow on
What a jill may do if the right man come?
Hey reggae boat, come we just have a little fun!
Go now!©1992 Mute Records
A bit of a random vibe, sure, but somehow the ragga/rap part works.
By the way, the video for Erasure’s Take a Chance on Me is an almost shot by shot remake of the original, with Clarke playing Fältskog and Bell playing Lyngstad, as well as themselves.
Abba’s Voulez Vous sounds like a dance-happy, disco anthem. In contrast, Erasure’s version of the song sounds like something played in some dirty basement lounge. Erasure’s version doesn’t change the meaning of the original mind you. Both songs are about veteran club-goers meeting on the dance floor, and hoping for a one night stand. However, the sounds of Erasure’s synths make the song sound darker somehow. Less innocent. Maybe it’s my own information bias. I was only a toddler when the original song came out, so I didn’t really know what the disco scene entangled. I tend to view the scene with a sort of innocence. Maybe it’s just the difference in vocal stylings.
Regardless, I view Erasure’s Voulez Vous as a darker interpretation of the original.
Gimme Gimme Gimme
Gimme Gimme Gimme is not actually included on ABBA-Esque. Erasure recorded the song several years earlier, as a B-side on the Oh L’amour EP. Regardless, it’s a fun cover to explore.
Erasure gave Gimme Gimme Gimme the same treatment they would give other ABBA songs later on. Most notably, updated synthesizers. However, the synths certainly sound different than the ABBA-Esque songs, as they’re mid-80s synths, and not early 90s synths. Regardless, the most striking thing about Erasure’s cover is that we hear the loneliness of a man longing for another man. Compare that to the original, with a woman longing for a man. Erasure does not change the genders in the lyrics, so during the chorus, we hear Andy Bell sing “Gimme Gimme Gimme a man after midnight.” What makes this so significant is the fact that in the mid-80s, heterosexualism saw homosexuality as lust-driven, as opposed to love-driven. More about hooking up and less about finding a partner to share their life. Andy Bell, by not changing the gender of the song, challenges the bias and predispositions of his sexual orientation.
Turn about is fair play. ABBA was no longer recording music in the early 90s, but a tribute band, Björn Again recorded two Erasure songs and called the project “Erasure-Esque.” While ABBA-Esque shows what ABBA songs would sound like if Erasure wrote them Erasure-Esque, asks “What if ABBA wrote these Erasure songs?” The results are interesting, a little campy, but overall amazing. Listen for yourself.
When Erasure covers ABBA again
This is an open letter to Erasure.
When Erasure covers ABBA, you make me extremely happy. Your spin on classic disco songs has actually made me explore said songs more. It’s true, circa 1993 when I listened to ABBA-Esque for the first time, I wanted to hear the originals. Sure, I had heard these songs before, but only in passing. I wanted to actively digest the original songs. I remember going to the library and checking out a copy of ABBA’s greatest hits from the library, all because of your covers of ABBA. In short, your tributes to ABBA made me an ABBA fan.
What does this mean going forward? I want more ABBA covers. You originally intended to make ABBA-Esque a full album, and I for one wonder what Erasure might do with songs like “Waterloo,” “Fernando,” “Dancing Queen,” and “Super Trouper.” So please, come back with ABBA-Esque 2. Maybe it can coincide with the rumors of an ABBA reunion! And by the way, if the members of ABBA are paying attention, I’d love to hear an official take on some Erasure songs. “Always,” O’Lamour,” and “Breathe of Life” come to mind.
Sincerely, a fan of both Erasure and ABBA.