Strangers by The Ramona Flowers – Album Review
By David Schuster
The sun is setting behind the trees, and I have sat down on the deck in the last rays to listen to Strangers, the fourth release from Bristol-based Ramona Flowers.
The title track opens the album in elegant style. From the lush strings, backed by electro bass to the vocals, overlaid with just a smidgen of vocoder, it’s a classy slice of retro-chic. The song resonates with illicit liaisons and conjures images of couples slow dancing on warm Mediterranean nights.
It is followed by ‘Out of Focus’, another immediately engaging tune, very reminiscent of ABC’s ‘Look of Love’. Indeed, Strangers has at its heart the essence of the eighties.
“Music with a mission”
The third track ‘Come Alive’ highlights the tightness of the band, no mean feat for a five piece: Ed Gallimore keeps the beat to the fore, bass, guitar and vocals sweep in and out flawlessly. And yet; and yet, by now there’s something niggling. I can’t quite identify it, but there’s something unsatisfying about it all.
Another three perfect songs slip by before I manage to put my finger on what’s been troubling me. This isn’t music to be listened to. This is music designed to be as unobtrusive as possible. It’s background music for when you want something to create exactly the right laidback vibe. Strangers is that album. This is music with a mission, to be filed alongside your ageing copies of Roxy’s Avalon, and David Grey’s White Ladder.
I’d use the phrase ‘over produced’, but that would be an injustice. This is music where the production has deliberately smoothed over any element which might stand out above the carefully orchestrated ambience.
To be fair, ‘If You Remember’, ‘Seeing Double’, and ‘Supplement’, whilst still firmly rooted in the decade that gave us Heaven 17 and Frankie Goes to Hollywood, differ slightly from this formula. Of these, ‘Supplement’ is the most innovative, with Steve Bird’s distinctive vocal style heavily vocoded and a nice sparse mix. It finishes off the album immaculately.
And that’s the rub: Strangers is an immaculate offering, superbly crafted, from a band who are masters of what they do – but ultimately, just not for sitting down and listening to.