samedi 3 octobre 2009

Viva Bananarama ! their tenth studio album

Keren and Sarah have just released their tenth album, Viva, on Fascination Records (house of Girls Aloud, The Saturdays or Sophie Ellis-Bextor) and as much as I loved the lead single Love comes, I feel a little deceived.
It's not that it is a bad album but maybe I was awaiting too much from the ladies' return. And 11 tracks is FAR too short a tracklisting for my tates, considering there are 5 other tracks already available as digital B-sides/pre-order bonuses... WHY OH WHY do CD buyers always feel betrayed nowadays? And the Music Industry wants us to still buy physical over digital ? I don't think so : I think they want us to buy both! And that can only lead to file exchange & piracy...
Let's get back to Viva though.

From the first listen, their new album has grown on me but I remember their first work on a new album was to do a disco cover versions collection and when I hear the brilliance of The Runner, I regret Viva is not the tribute album it was first meant to be. Instead, They've recorded more new songs (and some cover versions too) with help from Ian Masterson (remember Dannii's Neon nights or Sheena Easton's Fabulous disco album?) who produce them all here with up-to-date electro sounds.

Love comes opens it up with its catchy pop melody, electroïfied arrangements and the Nanas OH WOAH OH WOAH trademark lines. It sounds to me like the following step after their previous work on Drama and it's a brilliant lead single, although it only reached a poor #44 in the UK charts a couple of weeks ago. Love don't live here follows the same strategy, after an opera inspired intro ; same electro dance with catchy pop melody but with melancholic lyrics. A cover of Iio's 2002 hit Rapture
is next and could easily be tried as following single to try to catch some more chart success. The original is not re-invented but the ladies' voices suit this song perfectly.
Dark retro synthés open the following Seventeen track and it sounds very 80's inspired, robotic beats a la Kraftwerk and keyboards from the Erasure recording room. I especially like the chorus line "Kiss me now, don't let me go. Make me feel like Marilyn Monroe" even though the melody is a little too flat to really suit a single release. This reference may show the Nanas are no girls no more and that their reference may be a little too old for the youngs of 2009. Their chart performances say it more : Bananarama's releases (just like Pet Shop Boys or Depeche Mode's) are for their fans (in their thirty or more), not for the mass audiences. Twisting follows with somewhat an even darker sound and monotone vocals around musically oriental influences I feel. I don't like it much... Strangely this one is the only original the Nanas have not co-written with Ian Masterson ; Rose & Foster were the partners for it.
Thankfully Tell me tomorrow is next and the girls are back to the disco influenced pop we know them for, at their best. This one could have easily been included on previous albums except there's a clicking sound all along the song that makes it sound modern. The chorus is pure catchiness and I hope it'll be a further single, just to hear remixes for it too. Their cover of the Three Degrees' The runner follows and increases the rhythm more. Words can not express how much I love their version !!! And it's even got some Ooh ooh ooh Oooh ooh ooh lines you can sing along to. Musically, Ian Masterson's production is clearly inspired by the original electronical disco of Giorgio Moroder but it sounds as much retro as up-to-date, in a glitterin' campy disco dance kind of way... I think that it is that particular track that makes me think of what a full album of disco cover versions from them could have been (their own Fabulous in fact) and I would have liked it a lot I'm sure!
Extraordinary gets them back on the electro dance/pop side of the CD with 80's influences, diva attitude and some vocoder effects too. A good track but not one I would see be released to radio though. Dum dum boy is next and the rhythm speeds up for a full electronic disco-pop number that sounds fanatstic to me. S-s-s-single bed follows with a downtempo funky rhythm and more vocoderized voices. It is another cover version (the original was by Fox) but it doesn't sound fabulous to me. In fact, they've kept the good for the end as final CD track #11, We've got the night, is the pure jewel of Viva. With anthemic lyrics, a catchier than ever chorus and a wise production, equally sharing the disco/pop influences with the electro/dance ones, this one must be a single somewhat ! I can't get enough of it...

We've finished with the CD's tracklisting but there are some more tracks being part of the Viva release :
First, there's Voyage voyage, a cover of Desireless' 1988 european classic and the girls even sing it all in french with a charming slight accent. One of the first rumoured songs for their disco album, this one ends up being a B-side on some vinyl collector or a digital bonus. It's a shame it hasn't been added on the CD with the others : it's a fresh & breezy version that sounds really good.
Digitally pre-ordering the album gave buyers some bonus tracks and Run to you is one of them. It's a 80's rock inspired electro/disco cover version of the original Bryan Adams hit and makes me think of past Sunblock's I'll be ready and other disco/house dance tracks of some years ago.
Tokyo Joe and The sound of silence are other cover versions, respectively by Bryan Ferry and Simon & Garfunkel, but both leave me cold. The first is really bland and the second really faithful to the original, sounding very fairy but while a dance versions would have make a difference, this aerial good performance can't make us forget the original.
Final to the additional tracks is a new version of one of their old hits, Cruel summer '09, the official B-side of Love comes. I really like this punchy & electronic version more than the 2001 re-recorded one they did for Exotica or the 1989 house remix. This proves that, like a cat, a good song has nine lives.

We're through the review for Bananarama's tenth album Viva and you see this is a must-have album for all Nanas-addict over the planet for sure, a good album for pop collectors but not the BIG comeback album I was dreaming of, the one who would have given the nearly fifty ladies a new exposure on young audience. Next time maybe ?

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