With an as yet untitled second album due for release later this year, SWIM DEEP provide the first indication that things have changed somewhat on the musical direction front with teaser single To My Brother (Chess Club). Out goes the indie and in comes a decided 80s acid house influence that embraces electronics and a gospel tinge to the vocals that frontman Austin Williams says also reflects their Motown obsession, although the pysch-pop touches will inevitably also suggest the baggy sway of the Stone Roses. The single also features Hotel California, not an Eagles cover, but a new band number that again reveals their shiny new swirly, beats-driven approach.
Massive back in the late 80s with the hits Heart and Soul, Valentine, Sex Talk and, of course China In Your Hand, which spent five weeks at No 1, T’PAU split in 1991 following the release of third album, The Promise, with personal and professional partners Carol Decker and Ronnie Rogers going their separate ways. Carol resurrected the band in 1998 with a new line-up, performing in various 80s nostalgia tours and releasing a fourth album, Red. In 2007, to mark their 20th anniversary, she and Ron briefly reunited on a professional level to release the download single Just A Dream and then, in 2013, they got back together again to embark on a lengthy 25th anniversary tour. Last month, they released their fifth album, Pleasure & Pain (Gnatfish), even enjoying a chart placing in the Top 100.
Decker is possessed of one of those distinctive voices that ensure you know who it is the moment you hear her sing, and the new album plays to that strength from the start with opening track Nowhere, a classic 80s power ballad that sounds both fresh and vintage T’Pau, Decker’s voice these days a sort of heady fusion of Stevie Nicks and Dolly Parton, the latter particularly evident on Change Your Mind, another massive T’Pau ballad.
Although not reflecting their current personal relationship, Carol and Ron’s professional reunion has given rise to several songs about splitting up and getting back together, such as Last Temptation with its swirly tumbling chorus, the rainy day I Think About You and the soaring soul pop Misbelieving, a number to which Leona Lewis should lend an ear.
Although the strongest tracks are frontloaded, particularly parted lovers number Sammy and Dave with its jangling and twangy guitar lines and the funky, keyboards driven, prowlingly sung and chorus friendly Demolition Man, the whole album stands up alongside Bridge of Spies, a notable highlight being Once In A Lifetime where, featuring a squally guitar break, Carol adopts the husky spoken approach of Heart and Soul (which Madonna emulated on Vogue) on a cutting, defiant lyric seemingly directed at record industry svengalis (“you pat me on the back and then you take all the glory”).
The musical climate being what it is, it’s not going to spur any return to the dizzy heights, but with plenty here to both keep fans happy and attract new audiences, it’s solid evidence that they’re about far more than just the nostalgia circuit.
Having spent a couple of years trying to track her down, I’ve finally made contact with JENNY JONES, the former drummer and singer with 80s Go! Beat outfit The Mood Elevators whose outstanding solo debut, Where Angels Dare To Tread, remains one of the finest unreleased albums ever recorded. The good news is that she and former musical partner David Ditchfield (now a contemporary classical composer) have reconnected, with both agreeing that there remains unfinished business and have been making music together again. More news as and when.