This is a perfectly fine ’80s soul record. Fine, just fine.
I think one of the two most positive things I can say about it is that the songs are pretty good. They’re quite catchy by soul standards (though I guess not necessarily by pop soul standards). My general attitude towards soul lyrics is “I don’t care” and I can’t say I paid much attention here. That’s not why I listen to soul, though I can’t say that these ever struck me as below average.
The real selling point of this record, as anyone who has ever heard Fine Young Cannibals knows, is Roland Gift. Not only is his voice utterly distinct but he sings with the emotion necessary in soul. Too many ’70s and ’80s soul sings are about polish and technique. Gift has technique to spare (and range), but he’s got that quaver that really makes it seem like he feels these songs much more than a lot of contemporary soul singers.
The rest of the record, though is very, very slick. Sophistipop/new romantic slick. (Though there are few instruments and leaner arrangements than a sophistipop record, which is why I wouldn’t go so far as to call it that.) It’s very clear this is a product of the UK in the mid ’80s.
And I find the classification of this as “new wave” to be absolutely absurd as a result of the record’s sound. Well, also, their songs. Also, Gift. This is a soul album! And it’s an ’80s soul album at that. How confused are we all about the meaning of words that we could label this “new wave”? Ahem…
Anyway, I like Gift’s performance and I find the songs pretty catchy. But the whole thing is very, very slick and very calculated outside of his performance. And I just don’t like my soul that way.