Anyone who grew up in the 1980s is bound to hold a special place in their heart for Bananarama. In an age of unattainable icons such as Madonna, three pretty but ordinary girls with no discernable skill for singing or dancing became the biggest selling girl group since Diana Ross And The Supremes. They were the band we could all relate to, and we loved them for it.
From their early days working with Terry Hall through to their heyday with Stock / Aitken / Waterman, Siobhan Fahey, Keren Woodward, and Sarah Dallin chalked up a string of Top 10 hits. Even the departure of Fahey to form Shakespear’s Sister couldn’t stop them, and new member Jacqui O’Sullivan carried on where Siobhan had left off.
When interest in the girls waned during the 90s, everyone presumed they’d retired to lives of matrimonial bliss and motherhood. Yet Dallin and Woodward have carried on working as a duo, and now in this age of 80s bands attempting a comeback, here comes Drama, their first album since 1995′s Ultra Violet.
So can Woodward and Dallin recreate their glory days? In theory, there’s no reason why not. With the success of Girls Aloud and Sugababes, there’s renewed interest in girl bands, and Bananarama could certainly give their younger rivals a run for the money in the looks department.
Yet musically, Drama is a drab affair. It shouldn’t be – by employing Brian Higgins of Xenomania, they’ve grabbed the team responsible for some truly great pop music as sung by Girls Aloud and Rachel Stevens, but the tracks on this album sound like any number of identi-kit poppy dance songs.
The single Move In My Direction is sultry and sexy, its electro-pop sound giving the song a professional sheen, while Look On The Floor is another great little pop song – although the computerised vocals soon start to grate. After an album of pretty much homogeneous dance songs though, the lack of variation leaves the listener somewhat numb.
Tracks such as Don’t Step On My Groove, I Love The Way and Rules Of Attraction could easily be performed by a bland pop puppet such as Lisa Scott-Lee or Dannii Minogue. There’s none of the joy and fun of Girls Aloud present, or the RnB suss of Sugababes, and none of the songs have the class of, say, Rachel Stevens’ Some Girls.
The exception is Middle Of Nowhere, a summery anthem which swaps the studio trickery for strummed acoustics and a swaying Mediterranean feel. It’s a great track, being reminiscent of the best moments of Saint Etienne, and a frustrating glimpse of what could have been had they not decided to compete in the more poppier end of the market.
Generally though, Drama is anything but dramatic – it’s bland and anonymous, and unlikely to see them lifted back to their former position as the UK’s number one girl band. You sense the duo themselves know that as well – the album finishes with two remixes of two of their biggest hits, Venus and Really Saying Something, leaving us with a hint that, with these former glories being revisited, maybe confidence in this new material isn’t all it could be.