PRISONERS OF LOVE - ALBUM REVIEW
by Ryan Wyness
I can't tell if Edinburgh, Scotland's Romarzs formed in the wrong decade or the right decade. Their incredible 2017 debut album Prisoners Of Love would have gathered plenty of attention in the '80's and the band most certainly would have been approached by Hollywood executives and asked to write and perform music for movie and video game soundtracks. Maybe I'm exaggerating what I would sincerely want for the duo but there's no reason that shouldn't happen.
However, the only funk music I tend to hear these days is actual '80's/'90's funk and dance music. Maybe I'm not listening in the right places or looking hard enough but wouldn't it be great if modern electronic/funk bands got played a lot more often? Even the 'cheesy' horror movies of today rarely use the electronic/funk sound that made the earlier slasher soundtracks memorable. The world of music, cinema and video games needs Romarzs. The world would be a better place with more bands like Romarzs. Be like Romarzs.
Prisoners Of Love kicks off with the relaxing, ethereal 'Wave Generator' which sounds like a piece played over the introduction credits to a movie. The introductions here include Romana Munir and Martyn Schorn. They are Romarzs and they're here to get down and dirty with you for the next hour of your life.
Now that we've gotten to know the band and spend a few minutes getting comfortable with them, the second track 'Funk Is Back' feels like a second introduction. We're not relaxing anymore, we're dancing around the house while we're getting ready for a party. Hairbrush in hand, a perfect microphone prop! Sharp, stabby guitars and a funky bass guitar go so, so well with the powerful voice belonging not only to Romana, but belonging to the '80's. When I hear Romana's voice, I hear everything great about '80's vocalists. Stunning! The song sees us out with a gorgeous, smooth guitar solo that left me thinking 'that was outrageously cool!' as well as 'man, I need to up my guitar game!'
Now that we're ready and in the mood to party, we have to get to the party. 'Breakin' Away' kicks in with a fantastic warbling bassline, a toe-tapping drumbeat and some super catchy vocals. A song you want to be walking down the street to, hands in your pockets, swaggering and strutting along. This is the song I found myself singing for days after I'd first heard it.
We've arrived at the party and 'Do You Really Love Me?' has us dancing the night away. The only time we stop dancing is to raise our hands in the air and yell the song title along with the beautiful vocal harmonies in the chorus.
'Complicated' slows us down a little, but not in a bad way. Maybe this is the point in the partying when we've realised we've had too much to drink and we need to tone it down a little. I do like some swearies in songs and the line 'I don't like a guy who thinks he's fly when he ain't got shit on me' is a stand out line in the album for me.
We've spotted our crush at the party and we retreat to the bedroom upstairs. 'She's So Bad' is the slow love-making song that plays as you both undress and do the dirty deed. Much like the song, don't rush it, just take it slow and steady.
I'm a massive George Michael fan. Always have been, always will be. 'I'm Gonna Make You' on Prisoners Of Love reminded me of some of those smooth and sexy George Michael songs like 'Outside' and 'Spinning The Wheel.' There's no rush in this song, just relax and enjoy it.
'Come Back' is the ballad of the album. It's big and it's beautiful. Exactly the kind of song one would love to see performed in a large stadium. A massive light show accompanying the performance would be spectacular, but the song performed live on its own would be quite a treat.
Following the stadium anthem is the innocent, adorable 'Every Little Sad Song.' Beginning with some a Capella vocals and snapping fingers, this one is a joy to hum along to. Later, a fluttery drum roll on the snare walks us into a chirpy little tune which later modulates to an even chirpier little tune. I wish I could've been present when the band put this one together. I also wish I wrote this myself. Damn...
We have now reached my personal favourite on the album. 'Prayers' is a lovely, peaceful gem of a song. We're sort of partied out by now and we're relaxing on a huge, comfortable sofa with fluffy cushions and the deeper into 'Prayers' we get, the deeper we've sunk into that sofa. Sometimes when bands have too many slow or sad songs consecutively on an album with fast and dancy songs on there it can get quite tedious but Romarzs are nailing it. We're comfortable, we're content and we don't want this bliss number to end.
However, we eventually have to reach the end of 'Prayers' and the funk jumps back in with 'Try You Out (Baba Boom Mix)' getting us on our feet again. You think you're partied out but someone blasts a song you love on the jukebox and you're ready for round two! Back to the funky '80's dance sound, the guitars and vocals in this song work so well together. It's as if Romana is trying to have a conversation with the guitar but it's just screaming licks over her, not listening to a word she's saying. The guitar work is a highlight in this song. The effects, the smoothness and the palm-muted notes will have you air-guitaring on the nearest table in no time.
Put the air guitar down and pick up the air bass guitar for some dirty bass in 'Nasty Girl' up next. I don't have too much to say about this song, to be honest. It's a cool, cheeky song with glorious vocals, a head-bobbing drumbeat, sweet-ass synths and a bit of guitar that pops its head in now and again. Again, just sit back and enjoy it, would ya?
'S.O.S' fits right into a chase level in a video game. Fast drums, fast vocals, stabby bass, constantly twinkling synths and a guitar cheering you on as you run. There's no sitting still during this song. I don't do cocaine or promote doing cocaine, but if you do cocaine, let me know what it's like to listen to this song whilst on cocaine. Thanks.
The pace settles down for the penultimate song, 'What About Us.' The music sticks to the video game atmosphere but this time it's a final boss level. It's intense and it keeps you captured until it's done with you. At around 2:22, Romana growls a single syllable in her lyrics and I must have rewound it four or five times because, honestly, it's cool as funk!
We've beaten the final boss and we've had the time of our lives partying all night but it's time to rest. Prisoners Of Love leaves us with 'Better Man' as it approached us; ethereal and relaxing. A perfect ending to an album, this song would be a fantastic opener, too. I have yet to see Romarzs live but I really do hope the crowd is treated to this song when I do see them. The final lyrics 'she found a better man' leave us satisfied that everything turned out alright in the end but it also leaves us craving more from Romarzs.
I hope I've convinced you to check out Romarzs if you haven't already. Whether you're relaxing, working out, getting ready to party, currently partying, coming down from a party, happy, sad, there's a song for everything and everyone on Prisoners Of Love.