The second Royal Family & the Poor album found a new arrangement of the band -- Mike Keane as always the one core member -- creating a generally fuller sounding and slightly less mannered collection of songs. While the group's musical roots remained clear -- bassist and co-producer Ambrose Reynolds' playing calls to mind Peter Hook, Simon Gallup, and other performers -- the feeling of the album is more expansive, a further stretching out to try various approaches. Like the first album, the opening song in particular is a sheer winner, the delicate and flowing "Visions," with a lovely acoustic guitar rhythm, while the ambient flow of "Living Room Academy" and the brief "Conspire (To Breathe Together)" are equally beautiful. On the flip side, the darker album art is matched at points with slow grinders like "Sex Goddess" -- which initially could almost be early Swans with less feedback and more echo before turning into a sort of industrial dance number -- and the haunting, paranoid pulse of the title track, as cinematic a number as one could want. Keane's lyrical focus on a more mystic and alchemic way of life haven't changed either, as the two-part "Transparent"/"Pagan Way" combination in particular shows, moving from murky invocation to exultant celebration. "White Stains" is actually the most curious on the face of it, in that it is extremely reminiscent of the early Cocteau Twins song "Wax and Wane," especially in the rhythm, though Keane's strong, wailing voice, even swathed in reverb, helps give the song its own character. As with the reissues of the other early Royal Family & the Poor albums, bonus tracks surfaced on the 2003 version on Boutique, collecting the radically different single version of the album's title track, a compilation appearance, one song from the limited-edition Live 1983-1985, and, stepping back further, the band's full debut single on Factory from 1981.
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett