08 June 2010

Andy Bell: "Non-Stop"

Andy Bell is one of those names that should be a household name. Coming to fame in the 80s as the singer of the duo Erasure, he climbed the UK Singles Charts top 20 twenty-nine times, and twenty-two times on the American Dance Charts. As a solo artist (simultaneously while a member of Erasure and DJing), Bell releases his second solo album, “Non Stop” (7 June 2010 in the UK, 8 June 2010 in the USA). Though electropop like his work with Erasure, if you heard the first solo album (“Electric Blue” (2005)), you know not to expect a rehash of Erasure’s work. Furthermore, at a moment in time when countless musicians are reviving and expanding the 80s electropop sound (Chew Lips, Frankmusik, La Roux, Little Boots, Passion Pit, Scarlet Soho, and Temposhark to name a few), the value of this veteran, who helped define the genre, is immeasurable. And in an indie field of more and more musicians coming out and/or staying out of the closet (Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke, Gossip’s Beth Dido, Placebo’s Stefan Olsdal, the boys of Scissor Sisters, Sigur Rós’ Jónsi, and Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij to name a few), Bell paved the road throughout the 80s and 90s to show that openly gay musicians can be and are viable.

Known for his over the top antics and dramatics on stage and videos (Erasure’s very first video has the duo performing in drag, as Andy Bell plays both the damsel in distress and the cowboy trying to rescue her), on albums Bell is known for impeccable, faultless singing, an incredible range and falsetto, the ability to be emotive, and having one of the most distinct voices in music. And the reality is that the quality of male vocalists these days is near extinct. Though Erasure’s music often borders on dance (usually relying on remixes for dance floors), this solo album is dance ready, more so than the debut. “Non-Stop,” true to its name, is non-stop grooving; even when slowing down the tempo, the music is upbeat and party ready. This time working with Pascal Gabriel [whose credits include Debbie Harry, Ladyhawke, Kylie Minogue, and Little Boots], Andy Bell is as playful as he is in Erasure, but with even a more updated electropop sound and beats.

The mirror ball immediately starts spinning with the first track, “Running Out.” Suave, smooth, and sensual, this is the perfect way to invite the listener right in. And beginning to end, more so than his work with Erasure, there are more disco-esque references in the music. But what really become obvious from the start is that unlike “Electric Blue,” “Non-Stop” is not about expansive soundscapes or musical posing, it is about sleekness and dance. The album (actually, each song) oscillates between traditional electropop (like “Touch”), soulful moments (like “Say What You Want”), and intriguing beats that push Andy Bell closer to real house than just dance music, like the titular track, “Non-Stop.” The biggest surprise is the closing track. Perry Farrell [of Jane’s Addiction, Porno for Pyros, and Satellite Party fame] joins Bell for a duet. He happens to be a big fan of Bell’s voice, and together they collaborated on “Honey If You Love Him (That Is All That Matters).” This is the meeting of two worlds that no one would ever think would collide; however, this collision is spectacular: lustrous yet campy, dancy yet temperamental, straightforward yet tongue-in-cheek. Both Bell and Farrell are outside their comfort zones, and that makes the song even more spectacular.

Of course Andy Bell is not the young boy he was when singing “Oh L’Amour” or “Sometimes”; however, the years have made him a better vocalist and savvier when it comes to putting melodies together. And, unfortunately, at forty-six many radio and media stations will probably pass over “Non-Stop,” as “pop” has become the realm of the young and cliché on most radio and video outlets, but this is not a release that you should let get by you. Andy Bell, a veteran, delivers a strong album with “Non-Stop,” proving that age and experience are advantages.

Track Listing:
1. Running Out
2. Call On Me
3. Subject/Object
4. Say What You Want
5. Will You Be There?
6. Slow Release
7. Touch
8. Non-Stop
10. Honey If You Love Him (That’s All That Matters), featuring Perry Farrell

Keep up with Andy Bell at his homepage, MySpace, and Twitter. Also, keep up with Erasure (currently working on a new album) at their homepage, MySpace, and Facebook.

Here is the video for “Call On Me” from the erasureinfo YouTube Channel.

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