The Romans certainly sound like an interesting band on paper -- the group was comprised of former members of some of the more creative California bands of the early- to mid-'80s, featuring Juan Gomez from Human Hands and the Los Angeles Free Music Society; Pat Delaney from B People and the Deadbeats; Mikey Borens from the Consumers; and Michael Uhlenkott and Keith Mitchell from Monitor. However, a great band is more than the sum of the members' resumés, and You Only Live Once, the Romans' first album, is significantly less impressive than the assembled star power would lead you to expect. Sounding like a cross between Wall of Voodoo and Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, the Romans blend atmospheric soundscapes with twangy, surf-influenced guitar lines, and while the results are pleasing enough, You Only Live Once moves the brain more than the heart or the feet, and that's not always a good thing in rock & roll. Most of the tunes are instrumentals, and Michael Uhlenkott's occasional vocals tend to suggest that was a good route for the group to take. While the songs are good and the material is intelligent and well-performed, the performances on You Only Live Once lack a certain passion, and this is the sort of album that simply doesn't stick in the ear for very long after one's heard it. Not bad at all, but hardly a lost masterpiece either, You Only Live Once ultimately sounds competent but rather ordinary, which is the last thing you'd expect from the musicians involved. The album was reissued in 2002 in a new edition featuring eight bonus tracks, which are on a par with the quality of the album.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming