Cinerama

Va Va Voom

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"I did get your message...I can't believe you're doing this." So goes the line from the answering machine comment used to start off "Maniac," Va Va Voom's first track, and as an initial reaction from longtime Wedding Present fans, it probably works just as well. However, David Gedge approaches his new project with neither false bravado nor, it must be said, all that much of a change from the past in many respects. The key difference is the music, which the band name captures perfectly -- classic, often theatrical pop that refreshingly escapes self-consciousness just by being itself, while retaining a strummed guitar at the center of things. Gedge and Sally Murrell make for a fine core duo, with wistful but not weedy duets and performances throughout; Gedge's singing is certainly much less rough than it has ever been. What hasn't altered in the least is Gedge's lyrical focus on love, emotional betrayals, twists and turns in relationships, and so forth; those who have always found a connection to his work there won't be disappointed at all. At the heart of things, most of the songs could easily have been calmer Wedding Present tracks, so what it comes down to are the arrangements, with a compact string section, along with flute, oboe, and trumpet adding to the gentle layers of keyboards, vibes, and warm atmosphere throughout. It's at once very '60s without sounding totally nostalgic -- a hard balance to maintain but one which Cinerama pulls off. While names like Burt Bacharach/Hal David and John Barry are often invoked in discussing the band, there are other connections as well, such as "Comedienne," with the breezy feeling of the Cure's lighter pop moments in its sound. The full guest list of performers is a neat mix, including Church singer/guitarist Marty Willson-Piper as one of the key players, while Delgados leader Emma Pollock duets on the bitter "Ears." The American issue includes two tracks from a British single, the pop-funk of "Love" and "Au Pair," as a fine bonus.

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