The Blow Monkeys

Staring at the Sea

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Their 2007 reunion may not have been greeted with the same excitement as the '80s premier sophisticated and sharp-suited new wave pop outfit Spandau Ballet, but while Tony Hadley and company's greatest-hits tour/album smacked of cynical cash-in, the Blow Monkeys' re-formation has bravely avoided trading on former glories. Following 2008's Devil's Tavern, Staring at the Sea is their second new studio album since the quartet decided to join forces again, which yet again eschews the politically charged funk-pop of their heyday in favor of a mellower and more acoustic-driven sound that renders them almost unrecognizable from their sole U.K. Top Ten hit, "It Doesn't Have to Be This Way." Indeed, having moved to the Spanish countryside, lead vocalist Dr. Robert appears to have fully embraced the sounds of his adopted Andalucian homeland, as evident on the Gipsy Kings-goes-Brit-pop of "One of Us Is Lying," the laid-back siesta ballad "All Blown Down," and the melancholic flamenco-tinged "Staring at the Sea," which sounds like a lament to the Balearic shores, but is in fact an ode to his less glamorous East Anglian upbringing. Apart from the odd nod to their past, such as the spiraling psychedelic funk of "Seventh Day," and a few misguided attempts at grungy dad-rock ("Steppin' Down," "The Killing Breeze"), the rest of the album continues on the same pastoral path, as on the Paul Weller-esque closing number, "A Lasting Joy," which could have been lifted from the Wild Wood album Dr. Robert contributed to, the shuffling country-pop of "What It Takes," and the gorgeous windswept cinematics of "Prayin' for Rain." A radical departure it may be, but Staring at the Sea feels like a completely natural progression that cleverly allows the Blow Monkeys to grow older gracefully without tarnishing the memories of their chart-bothering era.