Bananarama - Viva
I was going to start this review by saying that Bananarama were always a guilty pleasure, but that’s not quite true. Unlike the blow-up dolls that pass for girl groups today, Bananarama had a rough-around-the-edges quality about them that even hardened rockers like me found appealing. Lest we forget, their sound and image were honed by punk and post-punk, and their not quite polished dead-pan singing style gave their music a cool edginess that not even the sticky claws of Stock, Aitken & Waterman could completely drive out. Which is why Viva is such a letdown.
Riding high on the 80s music revival, this slick and polished Euro-disco album offers up a handful of pleasing, if vacuous, dancy tunes that are easily digestible and just as easily forgotten. In fact, so homogenous is this album’s sound that most tracks are barely distinguishable from each other. What is really lacking is a standout track of the ilk the group used to produce in their heyday. There are no gems like 'Robert de Niro’s Waiting' or 'Love in the First Degree'. Instead we are served up listless, synth-soaked disco tunes like 'Love Comes' and 'Love Don’t Live Here. 'Seventeen' and 'Twisting' start off promising but then descend into Euro-trash cliché, while 'Rapture'’s catchy hook and driving rhythm almost manages to re-capture the old magic - but still fails to captivate.
The rest of the album, from the ABBA-esque 'The Runner' to the soulless 'S-S-S Single Bed' and 'We’ve Got the Night' (which threatens at any moment to morph into Barry Manilow’s 'Could It Be Magic') are so drenched in layers of synthesizers that any remnant of the band’s personality is completely washed away.
The burgeoning popularity of all things 80s would seem like the perfect time for Bananarama to make their re-appearance. Yet unlike performers such as La Roux and Ladyhawke, Viva lacks enough originality or standout tracks that would enable it to stand along side albums made by those not even born when the band was soundtracking those cruel summers of our youth.