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Erasure is one of those bands whose songs loom larger than the group making them. Vince Clarke and Andy Bell were love-song kings of the '80s, and the synth-pop masterpieces "Oh l'Amour," "Chains of Love" and "A Little Respect" ruled the airwaves at the time, helping to usher the synthesizer into the mainstream as a viable instrument. Before Erasure, Clarke wrote chart-topping hits for his first band, Depeche Mode; later, he formed Yazoo (or Yaz, here in the States) with Alison Moyet. From those early days through his work with Erasure, which is still going strong -- the band has released more than a dozen records since 1986, including this year's The Violet Flame -- Clarke helped shape the sound of electronic music for the masses. Bell's contribution isn't to be overlooked, either: The lead singer has been out since Erasure's inception, a rarity for a frontman who has been making music for nearly three decades. Bell's voice, too, is unmistakably Erasure, at once delivering emotion, drama and pop theatrics. Live, Clarke and Bell share a creative chemistry accentuated by costumes and expert lighting, but it is still that penchant for heartbreaking ballads that makes Erasure one of the best synth-pop bands ever.