Words: Darren Scott
Bananarama are back, back, back! And consider yourselves lucky – it was 10 years between their last two albums. Their twelfth studio album, Masquerade, sees the group celebrate 40 years together, expanding on the dance and electronica elements of previous album, 2019’s In Stereo.
Originally envisioned as an EP, the lack of live date options in previous years meant founding members – and childhood friends – Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward wove together 11 new tracks and ‘cohesive’ is definitely the word to describe Masquerade.
This collection of ethereal synth-pop dancefloor tracks weaves a wonderful blend of melancholia to a beat, with thundering anthems about broken hearts and not needing another disappointing lover. Once again working with producer Ian Masterson (Kylie, Dannii, Girls Aloud, Pet Shop Boys) – who they collaborated with on their previous three albums – proves to continue to be a winning formula for all concerned.
First teaser track, the dark ‘Favourite’ written by Dallin’s daughter Alice, is a bit of an angry stormer, the lyrics firmly implanting themselves in your brain scarily quickly. “You said I was your favourite, but now you’re just complacent.” From the off, the ladies aren’t taking any nonsense with this album.
‘Velvet Lies’ talks of leaving it all behind and forgetting the person that makes you feel like no other, continuing the album’s message of empowerment. “You can lift me up, but it’s not enough.” Amen. No wasted tears here, quite literally – “I’d cry but you’re not worth the tears”.
The album’s title track, and first single, has a suitably summery video as the ladies march through a castle. “You can be what you want to be, c’est magnifique,” they inform us. If it doesn’t make you want to march through a castle in a floaty frock, well, what’s wrong with you?
There’s a slight hint of vocoder on ‘Running With The Night’, continuing the feeling that Bananarama really just want to dance. And why not?
‘Bad Love’ (sensing a theme here?) again nods to a Pet Shop Boys sound that permeates the album with yet another chorus that catches quickly enough for you to sing along before it’s even ended.
‘Brand New’, another Alice D cover, is extremely catchy, a slinky little disco number that repeats in your brain.
‘Forever Young’ (no, not an ode to how they never appear to age) is the overall winner here – it nods to the ‘80s while sounding like The Weeknd, steeped in misty-eyed nostalgia. It could be twice as long and still wouldn’t be long enough – absolutely brilliant.
‘Waiting For The Sun To Shine’ brings the album to a close with something of a mantra of a chorus, surely to be chanted by fans on upcoming tours akin to their show-closing ‘Na Na Hey Hey’.
Despite predecessor In Stereo also doing the business, Masquerade may well be the best album they’ve done as a duo.
Masquerade by Bananarama is released on 22 July. The band will perform two launch gigs in London on 3/4 August. For more information visit bananarama.co.uk.