April 19, 2019 Bananarama – In Stereo (Album Review)
A homage to the ’80s phase of New Wave music would be criminally incomplete without anything from Bananarama. That is inarguable!
Formed in 1981, in London, England, by Sarah Dallin, Keren Woodward, and Siobhan Fahey, Bananarama was one of the quintessential female-oriented groups of the glorious decade, alongside The Go-Go’s (“We Got the Beat”) and The Bangles (“Manic Monday”). All these years later, currently comprised by Dallin and Woodward, Bananarama has eleven studio albums under its name—from 1983’s Deep Sea Skiving to the newly released, much-awaited In Stereo; a long overdue album which follows ten years after its predecessor, 2009’s Viva.
Released on Friday, April 19, 2019, via In Synk Records, produced by Richard X, along with Ian Masterson, Bananarama’s latest offering is a breath of both familiar and fresh air. Ten songs in total, it opens with the catchy title-track, immediately harking back to the duo’s Synthpop heyday of Venus proportions; “’ been a long time / ’ been a long time / I wanna be your love in stereo,” sings Dallin and Woodward as sweetly and infectiously as ever before. Then, slowing the beat a bit is the undulating, loungy, and Trance-sounding “Dance Music.”
The ensuing “I’m on Fire” is a mix of Synthpop’s old and new sensibilities—dark, gloomy, yet still danceable; it exudes faint echoes of Pet Shop Boys’ 2016-released single “Twenty-Something,” albeit in a less-urgent tempo. Then there is “Intoxicated,” a more organic-sounding track, owing to the guitar-stylized, synthesizer-generated rhythm of the carrier melody as well as of the rolling and popping bass lines. This is while “Tonight” will definitely become a favorite especially of longtime fans, as its sound and production oozes with ’80s nostalgia.
Another proper New Wave song comes next in the form of “Looking for Someone,” which is glazed with a subtle guitar fuzz, memorable keyboard line, synth washes, and steady bass. In Stereo’s lead single, “Stuff like That” then returns the listener to the glittery dance floor with its Disco and Funk elements; the initiated will surely conjure in her mind Bananarama in their youthful dance moves. Then there is the breezy, soulful, and body-swaying stomper “It’s Gonna Be Alright.”
Nearing the end of the album, changing the style and pace a bit, “Got to Get Away” is another slightly jangly guitar-oriented New Wave song. Finally, Dallin and Woodward ultimately unpeel their latest melodramatic effort with the aptly mid-tempo ballad “On Your Own.”
When it is all said and done, the ten-year gap between Viva and In Stereo was worth the wait. Dallin and Woodward show that they still have the groove and the chops to reclaim the glory, offering an updated version of Bananarama’s music for the current generation. That is why Cryptic Rock gives In Stereo 4 out of 5 stars.