[sic] Magazine

Romance – The Divide

These days I don’t often get the chance to peruse someone else’s record collection. It’s a singular pleasure, this time, made possible simply by depressing the ‘Play’ button on my system. I notice The Cure’s ‘Faith’ and ‘Pornography’. There’s the Sisters best long-player ‘The first and last and always’ and The Sound’s ‘From the lion’s mouth’ (Kudos. Not only for the fact that it’s brilliant, it’s worth money, these days). What else? Icicle Works? A spattering of Red Lorry Yellow Lorry. There’s ‘Heaven up here’ by the Bunnymen and ohhh yes, well-worn copies of The Chameleons ‘The fan and the bellows’ and ‘Script of the bridge’.

I recognise all these albums because they’re in my collection. Maybe yours too? And arguably your appreciation of Seattle’s Romance will hinge on your predisposition toward a band with such clear influences. Two things are key to this. 1) Are they blatant copyists? And 2) Are they any good, simply? Happily the answers are no and yes respectively. True they do sound a lot like early period The Chameleons. It’s in both the writing AND the performance. Drew Jackson delivers his whooping, rallying cries in a style that borders Mark Burgess and a lower-octave Julian Cope. And Romance also have that inter-locked guitar thing going on, although the skyward one of the two is perhaps more David Evans than Dave Fielding. That’s ‘the Edge’ to you and me, in this case, the Edge long before U2 hooked up with Daniel Lanois.

Crucially no song apes or copies a Chameleon track directly. I’m reminded at times of ‘Paper Tigers’ (Pillars) and ‘Everyday I’m Crucified’ but Romance’s songs are their own. You can probably take me as the acid test. I love The Chameleons and The Sound yet Romance music doesn’t jar with me. I only hope they have a similar career span, (with a lot more luck) as I could take another three or four albums of this. If I had to pick holes in The Divide, it’d be that the record is somewhat ‘anthemic rant after anthemic rant’. Couldn’t we have a bit more variety, if nothing more than to make the subsequent rabble-rouser more impactful? A ballad perhaps? A dreamy instrumental? A guest singer? Something to mix it up a bit. That’d be my only concern and it goes double for any live set list. Other than that… as high as you can go, boys. I’ll be keeping tabs.

Listen and learn