Despite Andy Bell's health problems in recent years -- he's been HIV-positive since 1998, and has suffered through a degenerative bone condition that's required two hip-replacement surgeries -- the Erasure singer's distinctive voice is as vigorous, dramatic, and passionate as ever on the long-running Europop outfit's 11th studio platter. But compared to the carefree hedonism and flamboyant euphoria of albums past, Nightbird at times bears a sober mood, especially in the initial stretch. Opener "No Doubt" is a midtempo plea for affection from an unresponsive lover, while composer Vince Clarke's rainy synth pulses underpin Bell's yearning croon in the breakup ballad "Breathe." Still, the party's hardly over -- it just takes a little while to really get going. "All This Time Still Falling Out of Love" can definitely fire up a dance floor despite the bummer title and ruminating lyrics, and "Sweet Surrender" bounces effervescently with the galloping beats and proudly bleating robo-melodies that've been Erasure's calling card for two decades. There's sadness scattered throughout, but Nightbird is neither a capitulation nor a premature eulogy -- there's lots of life left in this duo yet.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.