Review: “Deep Sea Skiving” by Bananarama (Vinyl, 1983)

Today’s POP RESCUE from a fate unknown is the 1983 debut album Deep Sea Skiving by British pop trio Bananarama, but is this album the catch of the day, or simply a red herring? Read on…

Bananarama - Deep Sea Skiving (1983) album cover
Bananarama – Deep Sea Skiving (1983) album

This 11 track LP opens with third single Shy Boy, opening with some wonderful sounding snares and shoop doop vocals. This song is an absolute uplifting breeze to listen to. It effortlessly flows from verse to chorus, underlaid with those ‘rama vocal harmonies. Flawless. The track was their first solo flight single (without the Fun Boy Three), and gave them a #4 UK hit in the summer of 1982.

Doctor Love follows this, laden with synths and guitar in the intro, and it also goes on to throw a robotic male Doctor vocal towards the end. This track isn’t as catchy but it is still loaded with plenty of familiar Bananarama tropes, including the big echoey “woah” vocal that will appear in later albums, and their synchronised vocal harmonies. The track was written by Paul Weller and it’s a nice song, but definitely belonged here on the album.

Up next is What A Shambles, which begins with some mysterious percussion. This gives way to a slower track, and by the time of the chorus, it could almost be The Smiths on a good day singing about laundry and riding on the bus. The song is fairly simple, bouncing along nicely with pseudo-Chinese synth sequences.

Lead single Really Saying Something is up next, a cover of The Velvelettes 1960’s hit (albeit with a shortened title). The track is fairly faithful to the original, with the addition of the Fun Boy Three who join them here after their hit with Bananarama – It Ain’t What You Do It’s The Way That You Do It. Despite the similarity, it really is a masterpiece, and the contrast of the collaboration works perfectly. The track gave the collaboration a #5 UK hit.

Side One closes with 4th single Cheers Then, which is quite a soft and sedate number. The synths lightly dance around a simple beat, and the girls vocals are a bit buried in the mix. It’s an odd choice for a single, and the UK public agreed, with it stalling at #45.

Side Two opens with a new version of their debut single Aie-A-Mwana, which is most impressive because the song is in Swahili, which the trio had to learn. The tracked failed to chart in the UK, but has remained a fan favourite. Personally, I’m not a fan of it, but you have to respect the efforts they went to.

This is followed by Young At Heart which is the cheerful original of later huge hit for The Bluebells (Siobahn’s boyfriend was the Bluebells co-writer here). This version of the track almost reeks of 60’s Motown style, and you can imagine a video where they played some kind of pseudo-Supremes pastiche. It flows effortlessly, and has a slightly different arrangement to the more famous Bluebells version. It’s nice to hear their version.

Next up is the album’s fifth and final single Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye, which gave them a bounce right back into the UK charts to #5 after the poor performance of Cheers Then. This is a really catchy song and one that is synonymous with the ‘nanas now. It feels like a companion to Really Saying Something, and earlier song with Fun Boy Three.

Hey Young London follows this, opening with some raucous shouting before some jaw harp seems to arrive. This is a call out to the younger audience, but the result is one that sounds a bit messy and somewhat military.

That’s followed by Boy Trouble, which is loaded with bass and percussion, and therefore musically sounds a bit similar to Really Saying Something. There’s some nice vocal harmonies in the chorus though, and it would be good to hear it with a bit more power behind it, perhaps from a synth. It’s a nice little song either way.

The album closes with Wish You Were Here, an apt ending for this debut album. Some bass synths hop in with some weird notes that alter when the ‘ramas arrive. The chorus is quite wafting, and fits with the wishing and hoping in the lyrics – like a postcard to a loved one. A fitting end to the album.

Bananarama’s lead single ‘Really Saying Something’ with the Fun Boy Three.

Verdict

Over all, this album is a bit of a mixture. It carries the hits perfectly, and they are a joy to hear here as if for the first time. They are bright and uplifting, and very catchy too.

Some of the other non-singles are enjoyable too – Doctor Love and Boy Trouble in particular, and you have to give Bananarama credit for tackling a song entirely in Swahili.

However, some of the other tracks sound a little jumbled and chaotic. Perhaps this is simply me with my 2020 ears, rather than appreciating it in context with 1983 ears. Perhaps they were wild, fresh, and exciting, but here 37 years later, they are a little uneasy, and disorientating.

Rated 3 stars - Give it a go!
  • POP RESCUE 2020 RATING: 3 / 5
  • 1983 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #8, certified Silver by the BPI
  • POP RESCUE COST: £1.99 from an eBay seller.

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