The Romantics

Strictly Personal/In Heat

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Conventional wisdom has it that the Romantics peaked creatively with their self-titled debut album and they never made another record as good, though they kept trying throughout the '80s, which might make one wonder why someone would release a two-fer CD of the group's third and fourth albums. However, Acadia Records has done just that, and this disc shows that the sharp-suited boys from Detroit had a less obvious creative trajectory than some might imagine. The first of the two LPs featured here, 1981's Strictly Personal, is the sort of record that would lead anyone to imagine the Romantics had well and truly lost it three albums in -- the songs are lackluster, the production would suit Poison or Mötley Crüe better than a band of Merseybeat-obsessed power pop guys, and debuting guitarist Coz Canler sounds like he belongs in another band. The results suggest a band shooting for arena success without having much of anything arena rock fans would want, and it's frankly a depressing listen. Things take a dramatic turn for the better on 1983's In Heat; producer Peter Solley, who produced the Romantics' first album, was back behind the boards for this one, and while the stripped-down arrangements and audio were a switch from their best work, it also put the focus back on the band's hook-laden tunes and estimable on-stage energy, and "Rock You Up," "I'm Hip" and "Open Up Your Door" brought the fun back to the Romantics. The album also gave them a pair of hit singles, "Talking in Your Sleep" and "One in a Million," and became the Romantics' biggest selling release; if it isn't up to the quality of the first album, it's good solid fun, and would probably be better purchased on its own rather than in tandem with the shoddy Strictly Personal.

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