Hormonally Yours

Shakespear's Sister

London, 1992

http://www.shakespearssister.co.uk

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/26/2007

They may have misspelled Shakespeare’s name, but the letter “e” is the only thing missing from Shakespear’s Sister’s sophomore release, Hormonally Yours. Immaculately produced by Alan Moulder, this album was the commercial peak for the duo comprised of former Bananarama member Siobhan Fahey and American singer/guitarist Marcella Detroit.

My love affair with all things Siobhan is a fairly recent phenomenon that I owe in part to watching old music videos on VH1 Classic, most notably “Heroine” from this band's 1989 debut album Sacred Heart. When Hormonally Yours was first released in 1992, I remember owning the cassette, though I never really gave it proper attention at the time. Now, 15  years later, I’ve rediscovered just what I had missed or overlooked the first time around. 

With its brilliant mixture of smooth, swirling synths and rough, textured fuzz bass guitar, these songs are among the best that the British had to offer in the sketchy 90s, at least before Britpop became a buzzword among the intelligentsia.

Neither Siobhan or Marcella are the greatest singers in the world, but what they may lack in the vocal department they certainly make for in captivating hooks and melodies. Siobhan’s sharp, snarling vocal on “Moonchild” is especially unnerving, as is Marcella’s ear-piercing wail at the beginning of “I Don’t Care.” For the uninitiated, these two songs may come as something of an acquired taste. Personally, I’ve gotten used to such uneven moments, though I am more daring than your typical Top 40 radio listener. nbtc__dv_250

While most of the other songs are top-notch, there are a couple of others that tend to fade into the scenery. The arrangement of “Black Sky” is almost identical to “Are We In Love Yet?,” although the great piano interlude is the song’s saving grace.  And “The Trouble With André” plays along nicely, even if it doesn’t have as much impact as the others.     

Featuring some terrific guest guitar work by Mick Cozzi, “Goodbye Cruel World” sets the perfect mood as the opening track. How they got the guitars to sound like bagpipes, I’ll never be able to figure out. The sweet summer sounds of “My 16th Apology” help to give the song a carefree air about it and is the one place where the girls aren’t afraid to be, well, girlie. Feminine touch or no, it holds together so effortlessly that it remains as one of the duo’s very best singles.

However, nothing can hold a candle to Shakespear’s Sister’s No. 1 UK masterpiece, “Stay.” The video is what really sold this multi-layered song with many moving parts, basically a fight versus good and evil over the soul of a dying man’s body. Siobhan’s performance as a glam-rock angel of death was particularly memorable and her sinister vocal style also is put to effective use here. What “Stay” also managed to do was show the world just what could be done to an otherwise mundane and ordinary ballad. It not only turned the entire pop formula on its ear, it totally blew the possibilities wide open. If I were to point to a song where creativity has the potential to really blossom it would be “Stay.” It’s got everything that a successful slow song should contain.

The trio of songs that close out Hormonally Yours also help to bring the entire album to an impressive crescendo and put it in a select, exclusive category of its own. From the foot-stomping rock track “Catwoman” to the confident strut of “Let Me Entertain You,” both girls continue to fire on all cylinders. The spellbinding grand finale of “Hello (Turn Your Radio On)” is just icing on the cake.

It is quite unfortunate that Siobhan and Marcella would go their separate ways before they could do another album together. As a result of their split, London Records held Siobhan’s incomplete sessions for #3 under lock and key for eight long years. Only with her ex-husband David A. Stewart’s help would the final Shakespear’s Sister album ever see the light of day. And, as it turns out, the third time was indeed the charm, though this one is pretty darn close to perfect.

Rating: B+

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© 2007 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of London, and is used for informational purposes only.