The Innocents


Sire/Mute, 1988

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


Many Erasure fans consider The Innocents to be the British duo’s very best, but I tend to disagree. However, with its overflow of 13 songs, it is substantial enough to be deemed a classic. My only wish was that the second half could have been as impressive as the first half, and that the slow songs could have been as strong as the more upbeat material.

The so-called “bonus tracks” are the real revelations to be found on this album. With its fantasy imagery and heartbreaking tone, “When I Needed You” is one of those rare Erasure ballads that works. Essentially, it is a dreamlike narrative that delves into Andy Bell’s lonely childhood, where all he had was his imagination to sustain him. 

Now, as for the techno remake of Ike & Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High,” let’s just say this provided the single most shocking moment on the entire record. It really comes as a pleasant surprise and was the first indication that Erasure had the ability to turn familiar pop songs on their ear and turn them into something fresh, new and exciting.  my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

ABBA-esque, anyone?

I’d like to also mention the stained glass imagery on the album cover. It is represented and explained (somewhat) by “Yahoo,” which is Erasure’s half-baked attempt at crafting a gospel song. The ridiculous lyrics are a complete misfire:  “Yahoo, higher-higher-higher…find your way up to the Lord.”  This is where Vince Clarke and Andy Bell sound as though they are trying to stretch beyond their own limitations.  In doing so, they unfortunately miss their mark. 

The same holds true for the album’s worst track, “Witch In The Ditch,” where Andy’s penchant for fairy tales and the enchanted forest runs completely amok.  You can almost hear Joan Rivers bellowing in the background, “Oh, Andy, grow up!”

Despite these aberrations and a few redundant filler tracks, The Innocents still manages to hold together fairly well. Erasure’s biggest hits are all here, each one equally deserving:  “A Little Respect,” “Ship Of Fools” and their American breakthrough single, “Chains Of Love.”  My only complaint about “Ship Of Fools” is that Andy chooses to sing in a lower register.  Whenever he does this, it makes the song sound like a warped record; his voice was always as its best in the more comfortable range of falsetto. 

Two other highlights are “Phantom Bride” and “Hallowed Ground.” A solid backbeat propels “Phantom Bride,” so its no wonder so many people wish it had been a single.  And “Hallowed Ground” is one of my favorite slow songs by Erasure because it is the perfect marriage between music and lyrics. It is also a great showcase for Andy Bell’s range as a professional vocalist. 

As the producer for The Innocents, Stephen Hague obviously knew just how to give Erasure fans the most bang for their buck, and the guys delivered here in a big way.

Rating: B+

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© 2007 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sire/Mute, and is used for informational purposes only.