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This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Romeo Void January 12, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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Watching the penultimate episode of the first season of Mrs Maisel recently – and that’s a subject for another day, I’ve very very mixed feelings, I was struck by the last song which played under the closing titles. And so I should have, for it was Romeo Void, the group members being Debora Iyall, Larry Carter, Benjamin Bossi, Frank Zincavage, Peter Woods. Now I only have one Romeo Void album proper, the second one, Benefactor, which had the peerless Never Say Never. I found that in Macs in the George’s Street Arcade sometime around 1984, a couple of years after it was released. To be honest listening to it then it seemed extremely cool and detached, albeit with a strong personal aspect to the lyrics. And as a document of US new wave it was just about perfect.

Anyhow hearing the track on tv more recently prompted me to take a look at the rest of their catalogue and what struck me was how close they remained to their original vision even as they added – frankly – commercial aspects to their sound to broaden it out.

The excoriating vocals, sometimes spoken, delivering a distinctly feminist view (and Iyall is someone with a fascinating life both during and after the group), the staccato percussion (four drummers or so during their career), the horn section which dovetailed neatly with the guitar and bass sounds. So one can hear Siouxsie and Joy Division like approaches on their first album. And later there was something not a million miles away from the Psychedelic Furs at their most commercial. And throughout curious almost funky excursions that with only the slightest nudge could have seen them in explicitly pop and dance territory. And yet the totality of their output makes a sense, the direction of the journey explicable by their own abilities and the broader context.

Here’s a sampling of songs from across their career in the 1980s. Early track White Sweater (a song with a genuinely tragic provenance) merges initial post-Joy Division gloom with something close to Young Marble Giants and US new wave. Never Say Never, produced by Rik Ocasek of The Cars who in a way was an unsung hero of early new wave (though I find them as a group all but unlistenable to at this remove, not sure why), is perhaps their standout track – and again deservedly so. Cool, cynical and yet far from unengaged, those jagged rhythms and chiming guitars propel this song into the musical canon. Sensibly they avoided leaning on it as their only approach later in their career. A Girl in Trouble (Is a Temporary Thing) surely has one of the greatest double-edged titles in rock history. A minor, and deserved, hit, it melds their energy and new wave detachment in something explicitly pop and works. As is One Thousand Shadows, which was previously unreleased before their early 1990s compilation – and yet listen to that pulsing bass. None more 1980s.

A fascinating group.

White Sweater

I Mean It

Myself to Myself

Never Say Never

Wrap It Up

Undercover Kept

Just Too Easy

A Girl in Trouble (Is a Temporary Thing)

One Thousand Shadows

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