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Bananarama – Pop Life – Classic Pop Magazine

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Bananarama: Pop Life was meant to be a new start for the band after the departure of Siobhan Fahey, except the group’s fifth album failed to crack the Top 40… By Jon O’Brien

Bananarama Pop Life album

It’s clear 1991 was a transitional year for the Stock Aitken Waterman elite. Kylie Minogue laid the groundwork for her mid-decade indie phase by taking more creative control on Let’s Get To It. Rick Astley made a bid for serious singer-songwriter credibility with Free. And shortly before entering his hellraising phase, Jason Donovan ventured into the rock’n’roll world of, erm, Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals.

Yet the most convincing, and unfairly overlooked, change in musical direction from the PWL stable appeared courtesy of a group in a continuous state of flux. 

Bananarama’s decision to put all their eggs in the SAW basket on 1987’s Wow! had undoubtedly reaped its rewards. It’s their only album to spawn four consecutive UK Top 20 hits, reach No.1 (in Australia) and receive BRIT Awards recognition.

Making Bananarama: Pop Life

Of course, this unprecedented success also came at a cost. Disillusioned with the Hit Factory’s production line approach, Siobhan Fahey left to become the gothic foil to Marcella Detroit’s angelic soprano in Shakespears Sister. 

Rather than throw in the towel, Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward instead regrouped, invited Jacquie O’Sullivan of rockabilly revivalists the Shillelagh Sisters to join the fold and, after a successful compilation and inaugural world tour, hit the studio for album number five.

However, the session results with their previous hitmakers, and Lipps Inc’s David Z, were largely deemed to be sub-par. Enter the unlikeliest of saviours.

The former bassist of post-punks Killing Joke, co-founder of IDM maestros The Orb and future producer of pretty much every other band in the post-Britpop era, Youth (aka Martin Glover) wasn’t the most obvious choice to guide Pop Life, Bananarama Version 2.0’s first, and last, LP. Nevertheless, it proved to be an inspired appointment.

“Unlike the fast pace of PWL, Youth gave us as much time as we needed to play around with ideas and fully immerse ourselves in the process,” Dallin recalled in their memoir Really Saying Something.

Play around she and Woodward certainly did (O’Sullivan’s input was confined to the vocal booth), raiding the producer’s state-of-the-art bank of samples and loops on a collection of tracks bursting with invention.

Take lead single Only Your Love, for example, which borrows from Primal Scream, The Stone Roses and The Rolling Stones, not to mention James Brown’s ubiquitous Funky Drummer, for an anthemic homage to the Madchester scene.

Its underperforming chart peak of No.27 in the summer of 1990 may have sounded alarm bells at London Records but undeterred, the girls thankfully continued to persevere with this new maximalist approach. Opening with a burst of crowd noise, Outta Sight combines skittering breakbeats with the kind of psychedelic rock riffs that

Lenny Kravitz built his career on, while Megalomaniac is an experimental six-minute whirlwind of slinky Prince-esque guitars, shimmering techno and industrial funk. Even the album’s most languorous moment, the Dubstar-meets-Ace Of Base reggae pop of What Colour R The Skies Where U Live, can’t resist throwing in sound effects of seagulls and crashing waves. 

And forget their Hi-NRG take on Shocking Blue’s flower power favourite Venus. The trio’s treatment of The Doobie Brothers’ Long Train Running – which they spotted while rifling through Youth’s record collection – is even more radical.

Also boasting Sunshine On A Rainy Day hitmaker Zoë, Heaven 17 backing vocalist Carol Kenyon and Gipsy Kings (performing under pseudonym of Alma de Noche), the 70s country rock hit is revamped as a techno-flamenco banger. 

Then there’s the album’s standout, Tripping On Your Love, a joyful amalgamation of acid house, hip-hop, ragga and Asian pop later remixed by everyone from Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley to none other than George Michael. The fact that it missed the Top 75 altogether must rank as one of the biggest chart injustices of the early 90s. 

In fact, Pop Life as a whole was largely met with a resounding shrug by the general public, only peaking at No.42 in May 1991 (although this still remained Bananarama’s highest entry until 2019’s In Stereo). 

Perhaps the new lineup had simply waited too long to make their mark – it hit shelves three years after O’Sullivan took over from Fahey, after all. Maybe the latter’s new project overshadowed her old. Or it could be that they simply succumbed to the curse of the Greatest Hits?

Read our Bananarama interview here

Bananarama themselves didn’t seem entirely confident about their new direction either, with two numbers from their abandoned sessions making the final tracklist. The watered-down house pop of Ain’t No Cure and Heartless were certainly a cut above SAW’s efforts that year for Pat And Mick and The Twins, but feels at odds with much of the other material here.

The ‘Nanas delved even further back into the past on the ethereal Is Your Love Strong Enough, with the man who worked on their first three LPs returning as producer.

Steve Jolley’s contribution fits in better with Youth’s club culture leanings, combining the group’s famously nonchalant vocals with some dreamy synths and chillout beats. Yet you still wish they’d been courageous enough to completely go for broke. 

Nevertheless, Pop Life’s standing within Bananarama’s 40-year discography has only continued to grow. In the duo’s autobiography, Woodward reveals it’s one of the albums she’s most proud of.

And opener Preacher Man, their final Top 20 single until 2005’s surprise hit Move In My Direction, was the only post-Fahey track that appeared on the setlists of their triumphant reunion tour.  

You can also see its everything-but-the-kitchen-sink DNA in Xenomania’s production style, particularly their work with Girls Aloud (coincidentally, Hillary Shaw – who would later take on the Popstars: The Rivals winners – left her role as Bananarama manager shortly after Pop Life’s release).  

It’s slightly ironic, therefore, that Bananarama delivered their most ambitious album having just lost a member who’d felt the group were stuck in a creative rut.

Fahey might not have appreciated Wow!’s well-worn formula but she’d surely have been more accepting of a record that was bold, brave and – to reference one of Youth’s many musical endeavours – brilliant. 

Check out Bananarama’s website

Read more: Bananarama Superfan – Normski

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Marc Almond announces rescheduled 2022 tour dates

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Marc Almond tour 2022

Marc Almond has announced his rescheduled tour dates for October 2022 adding extra dates in Liverpool, Buxton, York and Cambridge. Says Almond: “The fans have been so understanding and patient through the endless rescheduling due to the pandemic but now we have confirmed these dates I can’t wait to get back on stage.”

All the original dates are the same venues with the exception of the London Roundhouse show which is being moved to the London Palladium. All tickets bought from the Roundhouse will be refunded. Tickets bought on Ticketmaster will be automatically transferred to the Palladium show.

Almond will be singing songs from his last solo album, Chaos and a Dancing Star, released in March 2020plus many faves from his extensive catalogue.

His last album was released to critical acclaim just before the pandemic and lockdown. The singer was able to perform a one-off concert in February 2020 at the Festival Hall with co-writer Producer Chris Braide, joined by guest Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull.

Marc Almond’s career, spanning over four decades, has seen him receive an Ivor Novello Inspiration Award in 2013, a Brit Award as well as an OBE in the 2018 New Year Honours for his services to arts and culture. His latest album with Soft Cell, *Happiness Not Included, was released earlier this year.

Tickets for the rescheduled dates (Manchester, Glasgow, Bexhill and Birmingham) are on-sale now and available from Ticketmaster.

The new dates in Liverpool, Buxton, York, and Cambridge, as well as the London date, will go on-sale on Friday 27th May.

All tickets for the rescheduled shows remain valid except for the London show unless purchased on Ticketmaster.

Tour Dates

16 October         London Palladium – * VENUE CHANGE

17 October         Liverpool Philharmonic Hall – *NEW SHOW

18 October         Manchester Bridgewater Hall

20 October        Buxton Opera House – *NEW SHOW

21 October         York Barbican – *NEW SHOW

22 October         Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

24 October         Bexhill De La Warr Pavillion

25 October         Cambridge Corn Exchange – *NEW SHOW

26 October         Birmingham Symphony Hall

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Listen to “Sunburn” by Sylvan Esso

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I wanted to spotlight Sylvan Esso because electronic music coverage has been scarce of late in the blog. The acclaimed duo have new music out by way of the track “Sunburn“. They are not without a legion of fans. Although I have looked into them frequently, the full extent of their allure didn’t yet rub off on me. They are a band with festival and TV appearances aplenty and a Grammy nomination under their belt. Their popularity is such that I do not think my quiet period of indifference has much impact on them, though.

Since the sun put in an appearance the last weekend. I just felt it appropriate that I slap “Sunburn,” the latest from Sylvan Esso, streaming into my earbuds and seeing what effect it would have on me. Let me begin by first saying I felt the hypnotic pull of the track. (The bass line pops off like the little explosions popcorn kernels make when in a pan, heat on and with a lid firmly in place). This I found immediately transfixing.

Equally, the dreamy vocals by Amelia Meath of the duo exhibit wholly mesmeric properties. “Sunburn” is more of a stripped-back track that relies on a steer of catchy rhythm and blippy electronic bleeps.

Listen on Apple Music

When seeking an electronica hit that is uncluttered but still attention-grabbing. Plugging into “Sunburn” by Sylvan Esso is a move well made. Listening to the song, not only are we swept up in the feverish rhythm. We also get a sweet reminder about the after-effects of sitting out in the sun for too long. The metaphor extends much further than that. As the duo’s Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn explain:

Sunburn” is: eating candy till you’re sick or riding your bike too fast down a hill.”

Coming, from not being sure about them to then having their skittish electronic track, “Sunburn,” firmly stuck in my head. I guess I don’t mind Sylvan Esso after all.

Connect with Sylvan Esso
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SylvanEsso/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sylvanesso
instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sylvanesso/





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Blancmange announce new album Private View

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Blancmange new album
Blancmange

Blancmange have announced details of a new album, Private View, and a return to the label that released the band’s debut album, London Records. Private View is out on vinyl, CD and digitally on 30 September 2022.

The album is being teased by a brand new single, Some Times These, a hook-heavy piece of electronic art-pop that combines Neil Arthur’s vocals with David Rhodes’ guitar and washes of immersive synths. 

Benge returns as a key collaborator on album, while Rhodes (Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel, Scott Walker) returns as guitarist, having previously performed with the band on 1982’s Happy Families (as well as several other Blancmange albums).

Private View is set for release on London Records almost exactly 40 years to the day since they released their debut Happy Families.

In their post-punk early days, Blancmange made tape loops and experimental sounds with kitchen utensils, before developing into one of the definitive British electronic pop acts. Since reforming in 2011 (Luscombe had to leave shortly after for health reasons) Arthur has released a staggering 10 albums in the last decade.

“I don’t know whether I’m on a roll but I feel something in me has been released,” he says. “I used to hold back and I didn’t trust myself. While I’m still full of self-doubt I’m now quite comfortable with it. This is it. We’ve only got one time around the block, so make the most of it.” 

The past is used as a trigger to create new ideas – one track, Here We Go Go, has been in Arthur’s head since 1980.

“A lot of people are frightened of the future and are quite happy to have a repeat of something that was done before,” he says. “But it’s just not for me. Looking forward you’ve got a hell of a world to try and navigate through at the moment. We’re all moving forward – so we’ve got to try and find some answers.” 

An extensive UK tour throughout October, November and December will follow a performance at Grace Jones’ Meltdown in June, with a London show at the Islington Assembly Hall on 9 December. 

You can pre-order Private View here.

Private View tracklisting

What’s Your Name

Some Times These

Reduced Voltage

Here We Go Go

Chairs

Who Am I

Everything Is Connected

I Tried To Be You

Private View

Take Me 

PRIVATE VIEW TOUR

17 June – Grace Jones’ Meltdown – Southbank Centre, London

6 Oct – The HMV Empire, Coventry – w/ Bernholz

7 Oct – The Junction, Cambridge – w/ Oblong

8 Oct – Subscription Rooms, Stroud – w/ Oblong

13 Oct – Arts Centre, Colchester – w/ Oblong

14 Oct – University Y Plas, Cardiff – w/ Oblong

15 Oct – Cheese and Grain, Frome – w/ Oblong

20 Oct – Sub 89, Reading – w/ Oblong

21 Oct – The Level, Nottingham – w/ Oblong

22 Oct – Glassbox Theatre, Gillingham – w/ Oblong

27 Oct – The Fleece, Bristol – w/ Alice Hubble

28 Oct – The Boilerroom, Guildford – w/ Alice Hubble

29 Oct – Tivoli Theatre, Wimborne – w/ Alice Hubble

4 Nov – Exeter Theatre, Exeter

5 Nov – The Brook, Southampton

10 Nov – The Mill, Birmingham – w/ Alice Hubble

11 Nov – Kanteena, Lancaster – w/ Alice Hubble

12 Nov – The Forum Theatre, Barrow-in-Furness – w/ Alice Hubble

17 Nov – Corn Hall, Diss

18 Nov – Gorilla, Manchester – w/ Stephen Mallinder

19 Nov – Hangar 34, Liverpool – w/ Stephen Mallinder

24 Nov – The Wardrobe, Leeds – w/ Stephen Mallinder

25 Nov – The Leadmill, Sheffield – w/ Stephen Mallinder

26 Nov – The Riverside, Newcastle – w/ Stephen Mallinder

1 Dec – The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen – w/ Stephen Mallinder

2 Dec – The Liquid Room, Edinburgh – w/ Stephen Mallinder

3 Dec – Queen Margaret Union, Glasgow – w/ Stephen Mallinder

9 Dec – Concorde 2, Brighton – w/ Stephen Mallinder

10 Dec – Islington Assembly Hall, London – w/ Stephen Mallinder

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