Romeo Void: Never Say Never (1982)

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Romeo Void: Never Say Never (1982)

The British label Stiff Records (which gave the world Jona Lewie, Lena Lovich and Wreckless Eric alongside Elvis Costello and Ian Dury, among others) said everybody had one good single in them.

Romeo Void out of San Francisco had Never Say Never, a smart sliver of New Wave pop which rode a relentless beat and was elevated not just by the ennui and indifference of singer Debora Iyall but by Ric (The Cars) Ocasek's terrific production.

As Melody Maker's Michael Oldfield noted at the time of the memorable chorus "I might like you better if we slept together": "[It] sounds like an invitation to dance from a rattlesnake". 

The whole thing -- with some sizzling guitar by Peter Woods and Benjamin Bossi's atonal sax -- seemed to owe more than a little to Yoko Ono's Walking on Thin Ice of the previous year. On the same-title EP from which this was lifted, their In the Dark and Present Tense have a cavernous sound akin to Joy Division.

Their debut album of the previous year, It's a Condition, showed also that here was an American band at times more English than the English and drawing from the best of influences. And they could play: Max Bell in NME reviewing the album noted their material was "tight enough to stand next to Becker and Fagen [Steely Dan]." 

Romeo Void seemed to have more than enough going for them, but despite sexually suggestive songs (Talk Dirty to Me, White Sweater off the album), the jazzy saxophone (Bossi putting them closer to early Roxy Music at times) and a tight rhythm section (drummers Larry Carter on Never Say Never and John Haines on the album, bassist Frank Zincavage) they never quite got over the hurdle -- even though two more albums followed.

Still, they were highly regarded . . . and Queens of the Stone Age covered Never Say Never on a B-side which has turned up on the Deluxe Edition of Rated R.

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Nigel - Apr 23, 2012

Romeo Void are wonderful!
I have them on vinyl and am always amazed how few people have heard of their album!
Never say never is such a great song!

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