Practice. According to the cliché, that’s how you get to Carnegie Hall. But what about, hmmmm, I dunno … the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville? Don a Stetson, practice your best honky-tonk twang, write some songs about something bad happening?
Yeah, you could, but if you were Andy Bell and Vince Clarke--collectively known as Erasure--you'd give the acoustic treatment to your synthesizer-filled pop tunes, pack the house and have a film crew document the whole shebang for a live CD/DVD release.
The weird thing is, Erasure has about as much in common with Nashville’s image and heritage as the Opry does with the opera, so it’s an odd choice of venues. But Nashville is Music City U.S.A., so what better place for a couple of Brits to put on a show?
On The Road To Nashville’s 19 tracks cover some of Erasure’s hit list, which the guys cultivated in the pop-saturated ‘80s with songs like “Chains of Love,” and sets the evening’s mood with a subtle acoustic arrangement. But does it work? Two words answer that question: it doesn’t. Or if you’re from Nashville: it don’t.
Despite the inclusion of a lap steel, country music’s bread ‘n butter instrument of choice, the whole thing comes off like a bad MTV Unplugged episode. Why? When you take ‘80s Brit pop--like (personal faves) the Eurythmics or the Pet Shop Boys--and take away the element that made it work in the first place (i.e., the synthesizers) it leaves the original sounding hollow and, well, boring.
Erasure does get some redemption, however, as the two-step feel of “Blue Savannah” works better than the rest; but along those lines, the countrified “Victim of Love” comes across as self-mockery. Even the aforementioned hit “Chains of Love,” probably the most recognizable tune by non-diehards, falls flat on its earnest intentions. You really have to wonder what gives here.
Sure, longtime fans may be in for a romp, but undoubtedly the novelty will wear off eventually and leave them wondering where their money went and why. With a new studio effort on the near horizon, at least those disappointed by Nashville have some hope to look forward to. Maybe the whole thing was a lark, but the best Clarke and Bell could do is can these antics, as stripped-down versions of their work clearly don’t work as well as they probably hoped.
Buy this? You’re better off skipping it, even if you are a die-hard. The self-depreciating take on Erasure’s hits of yesteryear might confuse longtime fans, alienate the retro-'80s kids, and leave the musicians scratching their own heads when they reflect on this experiment in the future.
There’s another cliché that relates to “the road less traveled”--sounds like good advice for On The Road To Nashville.
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