Erasure lead singer Andy Bell has released his sixth solo album, “Torsten, The Beautiful Libertine,” a jaunt through theatrical compositions of a ‘polysexual semi-immortal’ character known as Torsten.
“Torsten, The Beautiful Libertine” extends the show that began with 2014’s “Torsten, The Bareback Saint.” Originally a theatrical one-man performance written by composers Barney Ashton-Bullock and Christopher Frost, ‘Beautiful Libertine’ continues the story as told through lyrical postcards from Torsten’s outside memory. Think Alan Cumming meets Marc Almond.
Andy explains, “Torsten seems to me like a dream that has come true. I was told the piece was especially written with me in mind and I really believe that. So many aspects of the various songs resonate with parts of my life. So, I know I was there. There is a melancholic beauty held within the songs.”
These are not the electro-pop gems Bell is known for with Erasure. Lyrically, songs are raw and gritty if not outright adult and almost startling. After more than 30 years as a pop singer as well as being openly gay and HIV positive, Bell offers the perspective to give these songs soul and life.
While ‘Bareback Saint’ was somewhat of a challenge for listening and even a bit choppy to follow, ‘Beautiful Libertine’ is far more consistent. The album flows both musically and lyrically.
With the opener “Statement of Intent,” Torsten/Bell brags, bitches and gloats. Later in the narrative, Bell sings “Blow Jobs for Cocaine” telling of dyke bars and sex on the brain. Yet, the fresh pop sound of “My Precious One” could easily fit onto one of Erasure’s albums. Not surprisingly, it is the best selling track on iTunes from the album.
“I Am the Boy Who Smiled at You” seems to be a sequel to “The Boy from the Sauna” from ‘Bareback Saint.’ Torsten/Bell laments of a future never realized when a married man refuses his advances.
“I love my Torsten! Even more now that he is becoming slightly unhinged…unraveling before our very eyes! I don’t believe that his spirit will ever be broken though,” says Bell.
“For all his lives and lovers and losses, the songs from the ‘Beautiful Libertine’ have a healing quality and a deep resonance that make you realize that he is putting everything into perspective and coping,” Bell adds.
Bell’s voice has never sounded better. The music gives his expressive tenor voice the opportunity to shine in the theatrical spotlight it deserves as “Torsten, The Beautiful Libertine” takes the show tune and upends it. It delivers some raunch and lands a few punches on the bruising life of this semi-immortal man as he grows older, wiser and maybe even disgruntled at times. But then again, who can’t relate to that.