Everything that can be said on the subject of bands reforming has been said. The notion of reforming stems from either wanting to rekindle an old flame or from a desire to cash in when the opportunity arises. Spandau Ballet will no doubt be able to turn a blind eye to the economic crisis from now on, but it’s also obvious that, on Once More, they’re enjoying themselves.
Promotional campaigns for the album capture the mood perfectly. Black-and-white film shows the band retiring to the studio; with warm smiles and in smart attire, they belt out those classics just for the fun of it, regardless of the large cheque winging its way in their direction.
Be it pretense or not, there’s something irresistibly endearing about the thought of this ’80s institution arm in arm once more. Stripped-down renditions of True and Through The Barricades promote this image of the band being relatively talented musicians rather than pretty faces selling the sound. And that somewhat achieves manager Steve Dagger’s declaration that this reunion was “not just a nostalgic re-run of the old, but a fresh slant on what Spandau Ballet are all about.” Tables are certainly beginning to turn.
Any potential dismissal of prejudice towards this reformation ultimately has to come from the only newly written song on the record:the title track. And whilst Once More is no Patience, there’s no desperate attempt to modernise a tried and tested formula that won the band its fans in the first place. It’s charming. Only Take That and arguably, The Verve‘s comeback singles have drawn in a new herd of fans. Once More won’t achieve that, but it will maintain the adoration of those with even the slightest of flame still burning after all these years.
Nineteen years since simmering out, as Dagger once again perfectly puts it: “Now they are older, fatter, poorer – there’s every reason to see if the magic still works.” And for all the setbacks that come from an album that sounds as if it was recorded in a matter of hours, like some kind of live session for Radio 2, it captures the atmosphere of soulfulness, the dark, smooth demeanour so ruthlessly associated with Spandau Ballet in the ’80s. It’s this that is the winning card on Once More, the clincher in drawing the fans back into far-from-unknown territory.
The longevity of this reformation will rely very much on the success of Once More. The title in itself suggests that the band were persuaded into coming together for oneextra session. But it also leaves room for subsequent releases -consider that it hasn’t been called Last Ever or Period.
But essentially, whilst this isn’t some avant garde exploration into the unknown from a previously established pop act, that was never on the cards. Once More isn’t a great album, but it does contain some great songs from a band that deserve another crack at the charts. All it lacks is quantity and quality of original material. Perhaps that’s next on the agenda.