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Erase Errata - Nightlife

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Artist: Erase Errata

Album: Nightlife

Label: Kill Rock Stars

Review date: Nov. 12, 2006

Everyone these days loves the ’80s. VH1 just devoted a week to celebrating it in all its broken, decadent glory. But back in 2001 and 2002, a lot fewer people loved the ’80s (and what this says sociologically about the American way of life over the past 6 years is a conversation for another day), but some people did. And not the decade in the general sense, more the very early ’80s (and late ’70s) and more post-punk, new wave and no-wave than hardcore, hip hop, or hair metal. Bands like the Ex-Models, the Seconds, Erase Errata, Subtonix, Liars, the Rapture, Numbers and Chromatics all mined those scenes and combined and recombined what they found into a scattered, interconnected scene. It was never huge, but the music was fresh enough that it had people paying attention. What’s ironic is that five years later, after the wholesale revival of all things ’80s, almost none of these bands are still playing new/no wave: Liars and Ex-Models shed members and discovered Einsturzende Neubauten (with Chromatics following hot on their heels); the Rapture watered down to the point where Jon Pareles of the New York Times isn’t even calling them edgy; Numbers morphed into a more traditional indie band; the Seconds became a parody of themselves; and Subtonix just disappeared.

Which leaves us with Erase Errata. Their first two albums, Other Animals and At Crystal Palace, exemplified everything good about the genre - the dissonance, the vague and not-so-vague danciness, the tinny guitars, the inventive bass-lines, the nimble drumming, the paranoid vocals. It’s all there. But, like their compatriots, Erase Errata is not the same band in 2006 that they were in 2001. The most noticeable difference on Nightlife is the absence of guitarist Sara Jaffe, whose trebly riffs complimented the rhythm section of bassist Ellie Erickson and drummer Bianca Sparta just right, keeping the songs lightly buoyant. And while Jenny Hoyston is a competent guitarist, her playing is audibly heavier, focusing more on chords than twisted lines. It also doesn’t help that Nightlife suffers from decidedly unsubtle (read: loud) production. I’m not sure if this is the result of them switching to Kill Rock Stars from Troubleman Unlimited or just the latest sign that the loudness wars are working their way into the indie realm. Erase Errata used to be about space and were good at it; now, there’s still space, just less of it.

That said, I’m not about to call Nightlife a bad record. On the contrary, there’s a lot to like about it. Bianca and Ellie are still a fantastic rhythm section, playing interlocking beats and patterns with ease. And Jenny is still a great front-woman, even if she’s abandoned the sing/speak of Other Animals for something much closer to actual singing. And there’s plenty of vague danciness to be found, as well as fun, crunchy guitar work. In fact, their sensibilities are fairly close to what they were doing before; of the new/no wavers mentioned above, Erase Errata has changed the least. But that change is still clear. Other Animals was a masterpiece, Nightlife is merely pretty good.

By Dan Ruccia

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At Crystal Palace

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