Shakespeares Sister – Hormonally Yours (30th Anniversary Re-issue)

1992. The four big albums I listened to constantly that year were “Nevermind” by Nirvana, “Heaven Born and Ever Bright” by Cardiacs, “Little Earthquakes” by Tori Amos, and this one, which was never off my newly acquired Philips CD Player. The battle that had raged over the past few years between the old school vinyl and the new kid on the block CD had recently been won and CD was king (at least for a while) but for the time being people were still listening to the album format on their shiny new players, kidding themselves, as every generation does, that the future had arrived. And who can blame them, because the CD they were holding in their grubby little hands was the big pop sensation of the year who stood head and shoulders above everything (at least in the UK). The duo had already reached the heady chart heights with their previous album, 1989’s  “Sacred Heart”, and had already established their pop chops away from their previous positions as session singer and muse to stars such as Eric Clapton (Marcella Detroit), and erstwhile member of indie breakout girl group Bananarama (Siobhan Fahey), who got out at the right time before they became a simpering mess.

Not content with merely being a pop chart act Siobhan, an ex punk art school drop-out, having already named the band after a Smiths song, was keen to establish a more gothic alternative take on pop music, and utilizing their unique combination of Morticia Adams with a Mae West drawl, and an operatically trained singer in a Man Ray outfit, the band were aiming to merge pop into art and vice versa, and the result was near perfection.

The album launch in February was preceded by the smash hit single “Stay”, which stayed at number 1 for 8 weeks, helping send the album to number 3 and spending the entire rest of the year in the charts. Although it was released on vinyl at the time the CD was by far the bigger seller, and hence a vinyl copy is now much harder to find, which is why this 30-year anniversary re-release is such a welcome thing, especially as it comes, not only in CD/DVD, but also with splatter and white vinyl versions, along with a sequinned bag!

The album was partly inspired by the 50’s sci-fi b-movie “Cat-women of the Moon” and its title was derived from the fact that both members were pregnant at the time of its “inception”. The album opens with lead single “Goodbye Cruel World”, which is less about leaving the planet and more about walking away from a relationship, yet provides a great opener and sets the blueprint of colourful baubles of pop smudges overlaid with Siobhan’s sneering half spoken declarations and Marcella’s exploding R&B shrieks and hollers. The track is followed by the upbeat “I Don’t Care” with Siobhan rapping about a hottentot, which will now always remind me of French and Saunders‘ hilarious parody. “Are We In Love Yet” and “Black Sky” are funky as fuck. “Moonchild” has a glorious gothic transcendental feel and of course the aforementioned “Stay” dominates side one with Marcella’s vocals taking centre stage before Siobhan bursts in as the angel of death. As good as these songs are in their own right the stand out song for me is the last one “Hello Turn Your Radio On”, part Bowie/part Bush, huge flowing chords rising and falling as they sing the line ‘Life is a strange thing/Just when you think you’ve learned how to use it, it’s gone’. Every track on this record is a bona-fide pop masterpiece with subtle and clever arrangements produced by both Chris Thomas and Alan Mulder at the helm, along with a creeping influence from Dave Stewart. But the bulk of it is by two women at the top of their respective games, exploring the nature of womanhood within a mainly male dominated environ. In Siobhan’s words ‘The sometimes unbalanced, somewhat obsessive side of being a woman – to feel that it’s alright to have that side of you, and own it’, and Marcella adds, ‘Siobhan’s idea was to be different, to be dramatic, to express yourself’. It was 3 years before any new material was released, and this time without Marcella Detroit, and, despite “#3” having some great moments like the dark closing track “I Never Could Sing Anyway”, it had lost some focus. The pair re-united for a rather promising EP in 2021 so hopefully this re-issue may kick-start some interest in a new album in the not too distant future.

Andrew Wood / /

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