When I heard that the original lineup of Bananarama was touring for the first time (after all this time!) in 2018, I was excited. Bananarama occupy a special place in the 80s gay pop experience. An unlikely post-punk, shambolic Supremes ruling the charts and MTV whilst shining like a silver flame on a mountain top. Still, as much as the thought of this reunion and the possibility of new music thrilled me, I couldn’t help but wish that Siobhan Fahey was mending fences with her former Shakespears Sister bandmate Marcella Detroit, rather than happily trundling about the UK with Keren Woodward and Sara Dallin. (I still bought the reunion tour video – adorable and formidable).
Shakespears Sister, as a duo, had a mammoth transatlantic hit with Stay and two fantastic albums together. Whilst 90s pop was dying in the damp ashtray of grunge, Shakespears Sister were Prince-approved gothic grand glam dames in anthracite glitter cat suits. Absinthe moon vamps telling Victorian ghost groove stories. A truly unique vision of rock music and theatrics backed with a catalog of Ivor Novello award-winning songwriting set to thoroughly gorgeous Sophie Muller videos. Something to be proud of, something hard fought, something to be shared, and unfortunately, as fans thought then, something with an expiration date…
Chronicled elsewhere in numerous recent interviews, their split was bitter and the separation complete. Siobhan continued on, under the Sister name. Her record company shamefully mishandled the release of hidden gem third album 3. The solo Sister tunes are strong (I Can drive, It’s A Trip) though Siobhan’s soulful histrionic sonics without Marcella’s honey high notes can seem just a few deep blue sequins short of the old cinematic magic they created together.
A reunion, sadly after 25 plus years, seemed out of the question until the validating energy of touring with her Bananarama mates coupled with the lack of any new classic trio song material (prolific Siobhan seems to have wanted to record new tunes, but lifelong besties Keren and Sara had other plans and released the quite nice In Stereo without her musical input). Suddenly, an Instagram-heralded Shakespears reconciliation to heal old wounds seemed holistic and the best fans could hope for. Marcella was cautious; should she bring her boxing gloves to the détente?
The Shakespears Sister story didn’t end over that cup of coffee though. Inspiration was activated. New music was conjured in a suitably dramatic desert excursion. In addition to the two new songs written at Joshua Tree, Singles Party gathers all the hits (and should-have-been hits), offering a view of two women who were not only their own muses but now each other’s. Their voices together are just as you remember them – at sweet odds in dark harmony. Remastered standouts include the quite thumping Goodbye Cruel World, the sly Heroine, the one act play soundtrack of Stay and the gorgeous new spaghetti western slither of All The Queens Horses – a sure sign that all their askew magical musical passions have not been lost to the years apart. Are We In Love Yet? Finally, most certainly.
By James Derek Dwyer
Shakespear Sister’s Singles Party (1988- 2019) The Complete Singles Collection including two new tracks is available now. Shakespear Sister will tour the UK in October and November 2019. For details head to the official Shakespear Sister website.