The Romantics

Strictly Personal

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Strictly Personal Review

by Mark Deming

For their third album, the Romantics took the harder and more bombastic sound of their sophomore effort, National Breakout, and upped the ante by hiring producer Mike "Clay" Stone, who had experience conjuring up big guitar sounds for Queen, Journey, and Black Oak Arkansas. Stone's résumé wouldn't suggest he was the best man to put the Romantics' neo-British Invasion hard pop on tape, and a listen to 1981's Strictly Personal only confirms how wrong he was for the job; the sound is all squealing guitars, drums with enough echo to suggest they were recorded in an airplane hangar, and stacked vocal excess, anticipating the standard issue hair metal production style by at least five years. (New guitarist Coz Canler appears to have been a willing co-conspirator, lacking the more concise style of Mike Skill and overplaying any time he was given the opportunity.) This might have been less of a problem if the songs had been better, but while there are a few tunes nearly on a par with the solid pop/rock of the band's instant-classic debut (such as "In the Nighttime" and "She's Hot"), most of the material is clearly second-tier stuff (the fact it was their third LP in just a little over two years surely didn't help), and the obnoxious over-production just emphasized the fact that this is hollow thunder with nothing at the core. Strictly Personal isn't the Romantics' worst album (than dubious honor goes to Rhythm Romance, but it comes close enough that only completists and obsessive fans need bother with it.

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