Stephen Burt



Not the technique,
            but the band, and the band's technique:
You can thank the couples who tell
            each other "we used to dance,"
when really the two of you never danced at all,
            when you come to enjoy the lesser vocal range
of an older Andy Bell, whose double-reed tone

that we can change and still say "never change,"                       
            that the right fingertip can make the strange
familiar and the old beat-
            by-beat-by-beat less a medium of exchange
than an only barely international
            synthesis, both artificial and sweet;

            that time itself is less
like the ice that can detune an Aeolian harp
            than like the harp; that we are scientists,
conducting our own experiments
            in memory, its white on white less strained
than the mercy we seek in our fear
            of boring each other, attempting to entertain

and getting it wrong, so that staying together can be
            an album that beats the single, a strobe
or follow spot not superior
            to a domestic chandelier,
that the appropriate rhyme for deleted grief
            is delayed relief— O stay

in the same groove long enough
            to keep all that familiar melancholy
almost entirely
            in check, my love. Happy new year.



Erasure are still making records! That "still" gives you most of the reasoning behind the poem; most of the rest is a cover homage to the syntactic invention of Robyn Schiff. The most recent Erasure record is their atheist Xmas album Snow Globe, which I entirely recommend. Put it in rotation with Tracey Thorn's Xmas album for best Anglophile results.

When Erasure were at their chart-hit peak they spoke with special force to two audiences: teens and gay men. The former (especially girls like me, though I didn't realize it till later) enjoyed the hooks, the freedom from Dude Guitar Authenticity, and the sense that pop music could start in pain but didn't have to end there; the latter, in 1988-92, could also take songs like "A Little Respect" as much-needed anthems of pride, and of Pride (capitalized), in a rough time (the time of Silence = Death). The HIV/AIDS crisis doesn't really enter my poem but if you're going to think about this band's reception above and beyond my poem it shouldn't be ignored. For Pride now, see also [here].

If you like Erasure-- or Vince Clarke's previous band, Yaz-- you probably want to listen to the song "Spirit of Progress" by the Australian indiepop group Even As We Speak. You can find it on YouTube.