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“Been a long time, been a, been a long time…”
Britain’s all-time best-selling female group Bananarama, has just returned from a decade of radio silence with a fabtastic all new full-length titled In Stereo. The 10-track set is Keren Woodward and Sara Dallin’s first studio album since 2009’s vivacious Viva and it’s 36 minutes of pure dance pop perfection.
In Stereo is a musical triumph, brimming with catchy melodies, hypnotic hooks, luscious harmonies and dance music with pulsating beats that actually make you want to get up and dance. The sultry sexiness of lead single “Dance Music,” along with its infectiously irresistible follow up “Stuff Like That” were both excellent teasers of what In Stereo promised all of us eagerly awaiting new material from Bananarama. Luckily, that promise is more than fulfilled here, making the agonizing decade of anticipation well worth the wait.
Within the first few seconds of the opening title track’s throbbing bass line, you instantly know that the ‘Nanas have cooked up something very tasty. Picking up exactly where Viva left off, Keren and Sara, along with producer Ian Masterson (a match made in heaven, as Masterson seems to impeccably “get” Bananarama), have served up an entire platter’s worth of the exact type of musical morsels that we have been craving. “La la la feel the music/la la la dance music,” Keren and Sara decree in unison on In Stereo’s second track, which has the kind of slinky, meandering tempo akin to Donna Summer’s, “Love to Love You Baby.”
While there are plenty of club bangers to satisfy your feet, In Stereo also includes some delicious ear candy; like the Blondie-esque “Looking for Someone,” the beautifully moving “On Your Own” and the breezy “Got to Get Away,” the latter of which sounds like classic pre-Stock/Aitken/Waterman Bananarama with a deftly modernized zest.
The record’s song titles practically sum up the album themselves; “I’m On Fire” guarantees you’ll work up a sweat, “Intoxicated” is nothing less than addictively intoxicating. Get the point? Both of these practically beg for extended remixes, as do the rest of the album’s wealth of dance tracks.
The first half of In Stereo fluctuates with disparate EDM tempos, while the second half includes various upbeat and downbeat pop tunes, with intermittent dance tracks thrown into the mix. The tracks seem perfectly sequenced for the current vinyl resurgence, as both sides have a distinct vibe comprised of appropriately placed opening and closing tracks. This creates a seamless soundscape of flow and continuity throughout the set, which concludes with the slow burn of album closer “On Your Own,” which recalls echoes of some of Bananarama’s best ballads; “Cheers Then,” “Once in A Lifetime,” and “Is Your Love Strong Enough?”
Dallin and Woodward co-wrote 9 of the 10 tracks featured on In Stereo, with the sole exception being the title track, which was originally written and recorded by British girl-group Mutya Keisha Siobhan, but eventually bequeathed to Bananarama by the band.
Perhaps the best thing about In Stereo is that it doesn’t overreach by trying to be anything trendy or cutting edge (if such a thing still exists nowadays), it’s simply Bananarama doing what Bananarama does best. Besides, the true essence of Bananarama has always been that the group members always seem like they're having fun, while inadvertently carving out one of the most successful pop careers in music history.
Ultimately, In Stereo is a non-stop shining example of Bananarama’s strengths; crafting infectious ear worms combined with an effervescent spirit of joyfulness. Additionally, like fine wine, the timbre of each of their voices only gets better with age. In Stereo blissfully demonstrates that the duo’s members not only seem to still be enjoying themselves, but also sound creatively inspired with no signs of stopping on the horizon. Thankfully, Keren and Sara are still savvy enough to give us fans exactly what we want. Are you paying attention Kylie Minogue and Madonna?