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  • With the obvious exception of Kylie Minogue, dance-pop duo Bananarama are the only act from the never-ending Stock, Aitken & Waterman stable to have maintained a consistent recording career. They might be one member shorter and about 100 chart positions lower than in their '80s heyday, but since their last album to reach the Top 75, 1993's Please Yourself, they've released three studio LPs, even if nobody outside their small but loyal fan base really noticed. Their fourth album as a duo, Viva, is perhaps their most concerted effort yet to re-establish their chart credentials, having signed to Fascination Records, the pure pop label home to the likes of Girls Aloud and the Saturdays, two girl bands whose members weren't even born when Bananarama had their first hit, the 1981 Fun Boy Three collaboration "It Ain't What You Do (It's the Way That You Do It)." But while unflattering comparisons to their younger counterparts are inevitable, Viva's 11, infectious hi-NRG tracks show that they're not exactly ready for the pipe and slippers just yet. "Seventeen" is a robotic slice of electro reminiscent of Goldfrapp's slinky nu-synth reinvention, lead single "Love Comes" is an anthemic, glittery disco number that could have been lifted from Kylie's Fever album, while closing track "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" is a glorious attempt at Pet Shop Boys-style melancholic dance-pop. Unfortunately, the three cover versions included aren't as successful. "The Runner" is a competent if unremarkable club-friendly interpretation of the Three Degrees' disco classic, "Rapture" is a glossier but less pulsating rendition of iiO's sultry Euro-house anthem, while the tacky production of their reworking of Fox's "S-S-S-Single Bed" sounds even more dated than the 1976 original, all of which suggest the decision to abandon the original idea of a covers album half-way through recording was indeed a wise one. Not exactly renowned for their singing prowess, much of Viva resembles the vocal standards of an average karaoke night; however, it's their deadpan, half-hearted tones which actually provide much of the album's charm. While many '80s acts struggle to remain contemporary, Bananarama has no such problem, and while it doesn't match up to the majestic pop of "Venus," "Love in the First Degree," and "Cruel Summer," it's still a fun and infectious addition to their surprisingly extensive back catalogue. ~ Jon O'Brien
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