Shakespears Sister - Hormonally Yours (re-issue, London Records)

Shakespears Sister – Hormonally Yours (re-issue, London Records)

Listening to this album again (having listened to it over the last thirty years), it’s almost worrying how bloody prescient it is. ‘Another war, and now the pound is looking weak. And tell me, have you read about the latest freak?Siobhan Fahey and Marcella Detroit sing on the album closer and damn fine single ‘Hello (Turn Your Radio On).’ Sure, so they sing about the paperboy shouting out the headlines in the street (when was the last time you experienced that, except in one of the Harry Potter films?), but here in Britain where it’s looking really very gloomy before we even reach what may be a very bleak winter, it’s pretty accurate.

That said, as you bunker down, hot water bottles and thermal underwear at the ready, you may wish to listen to this, the re-issued second album from Shakespears Sister (spelling and grammar absolutely correct, actually, pedants). If you liked it at the time, it holds up pretty well, and if you haven’t heard it before, here’s proof that there were some delightfully unique records being made and bothering the charts quite spectacularly too in the early half of the 1990s.

But first: a brief recap. As has been well-documented, Irish-born, England-raised Siobhan Fahey had been part of Bananarama from their formation in 1980 until early 1988. She had started Shakespears Sister as a solo project (taking its name from The Smiths’ 1985 single ‘Shakespeare’s Sister‘) before Marcella Detroit came on board. Their debut album, Sacred Heart was released in 1989 and included the top ten hit ‘You’re History.’

The title derived from both women being pregnant during the making of the album. That much they had in common – both came from different places musically. Detroit’s background was working as a songwriter, and was rooted far more in r’n’b. Detroit’s voice was high, wheras Fahey’s was lower and huskier. Yet these different backgrounds come to play off each other very well in the album.The package of the album suggested that the two might even have – whisper it – gone goth. After all, with titles like ‘Catwoman,’ ‘Moonchild‘ and ‘Black Sky‘ (all great tracks by the way), and a definite turn against almost anything mainstream and 80s, who could blame us?

What strikes me on listening again (and again – I’ve already played this twice today) is just how goddamn funky this album is in parts. Quite often those tracks that weren’t singles like ‘Are We In Love Yet’ and ‘Emotional Thing.’ While Detroit has said that she always understood that this was Fahey’s vehicle, it has the equal imprint of both collaborators on it, starting with the album cover (Fahey alone appears on the cover of Sacred Heart). While occasionally there are moments that are a bit too 1990s for their own good – there’s no second half dip, but ‘Let Me Entertain You‘ is the only seriously weak spot (no, not the overplayed Robbie Williams song).

Of course, this album was phenomenally successful. ‘Stay‘ topped the charts for eight weeks, helped by a fabulously goth meets camp video, which to this day Bananarama have yet to do. Other hits like ‘Goodbye Cruel World‘ and ‘I Don’t Care‘ still feel like they’re sticking two fingers up and fabulously enjoying it. Not to mention a dazzling array of bonus tracks as well.

Sure, a lot of people were focused on grunge or the dance scene(s) at this time. Do not let anyone dismiss this; 600,000 people bought this in Britain alone. They were right then – and they’re right now.

Shakespears Sister - Hormonally Yours (re-issue, London Records)
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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.