Considering their “camp as Christmas” reputation, it’s surprising that it’s taken synth-pop stalwarts Erasure nearly thirty years to embrace the festive season. However, their fifteenth studio effort, Snow Globe, is far from the party starting-affair you might expect.
A mixture of original compositions, traditional carols and mid-20th Century standards, the follow-up to 2011’s Tomorrow’s World starts brightly enough with the kind of floaty electro-pop the duo are renowned for on “Bells Of Love (Isabelle’s Of Love).”
But having stated that they intend to reflect the darker side of the holidays, Erasure then steer the record into more sombre territory. “Gaudete” is a brilliantly eerie take on the traditional hymn made famous by Steeleye Span; the self-penned “Make It Wonderful” recalls the ominous synth-pop of Vince Clarke’s former outfit Depeche Mode; and “Sleep Quietly” blends Andy Bell’s haunting choirboy routine with a creepy music box-style production.
Snow Globe then ramps up the strangeness with a bizarre chiptune rendition of Nat King Cole classic “The Christmas Song” which has to be heard to be believed, a wonky synth-led interpretation of “White Christmas,” and “Blood On The Snow,” a macabre waltz inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s tragic fairy tale The Steadfast Tin Soldier. The choice of “In The Bleak Midwinter,” transformed here into a solemn funereal march, therefore couldn’t be more appropriate.
But thankfully the pair do make a few more concessions to those who aren’t entirely immune to the magic of Christmas. “There’ll Be No Tomorrow” is a glorious slice of throbbing disco-pop which suggests that they could have challenged nearest rivals Pet Shop Boys’ recent return-to-form had they decided to commit to a more conventional comeback. A gorgeously twinkling cover of “Silver Bells” wisely ends the album on a more optimistic note.
Erasure’s unique approach to the festivities will ultimately be a little too maudlin for some, but few contemporary Christmas albums have been as intriguing.