When in Rome was another in a long line of British pop acts scoring one major hit single before seemingly disappearing without a trace. The 1988 hit "The Promise" was essentially a carbon copy of New Order's radio-friendly dance-rock. Dark yet catchy, boasting a throbbing dance rhythm, a singalong chorus, and a hypnotic melody, "The Promise" certainly deserved the success. Like many one-hit wonders of the '80s, When in Rome failed to maintain the momentum set by its only hit song by releasing a dud of an album. "The Promise," the opening track on When in Rome, starts things off nicely, but the remainder of the album is embarrassingly weak. Vocalists Clive Farrington and Andrew Mann sound just fine solo (as demonstrated on "The Promise"), but their attempts to harmonize on such tunes as "Heaven Knows" and "I Can't Stop" are often laughably bad. "Wide Wide Sea" is the only track here that comes close to matching the dramatic, instantly memorable songcraft of "The Promise"; the rest of the album is utterly forgettable. There are several ways a band could set its place in musical history as a one-hit curio. One way is following quickly dismissed musical trends, exemplified by the endless parade of quickly forgotten disco acts of the '70s. Some artists establish themselves with novelty tunes (like Billy Ray Cyrus or Falco) and struggle to be taken seriously with subsequent releases. But most one-hit wonders are capable of providing only one magical, memorable tune. When in Rome falls into the latter category. "The Promise" is the only When in Rome track anyone really needs, and it is available on a variety of '80s hits compilations.
AllMusic Review by William Cooper