Nightbird (Mute)

Except for New York City's performance-art aficionados Fischerspooner and the Scissor Sisters, most of today's dance-pop acts lack the ability to inspire the unbridled hedonism that often ends with drunken make-out sessions at closing time.

Things were different, however, in the '80s for bands like Erasure. The U.K. duo's Technicolor discotheque anthems, such as "Oh l'Amour" and "Chains of Love," invoked ecstatic fits of arm-raising that placed them in Pet Shop Boys territory -- at least in terms of mainstream synth-pop acts that tended to emphasize "pop" over "synth."

But like the Boys' 2002 album Release, Erasure's first disc of new studio material in nearly eight years mutes the hook-laden joys of their halcyon days. Gently pulsing beats, inoffensive keyboards, and swooning vocals abound on repetitive tunes that lack memorable moments -- even the icy single "Breathe" glides like the Postal Service dosed on tranquilizers. Sure, "All This Time Still Falling out of Love" still stomps with the clockwork rhythm that spawns extended 12" dance mixes. But for the most part, Nightbird is the soundtrack to a sedate nightcap in a frosty bar serving overpriced drinks.