Also in January 1980, the rest of the world other than Detroit finally got its first full-length taste of The Romantics, with the release of their debut, self-titled album. The Romantics is straightforward power-pop, guitar-based, catchy and boppy. The next few years would give the band moderate success, with a few singles charting and the band eventually breaking through with the later single “Talking In Your Sleep” (not featured on the first album). They have had a lasting effect on popular music, as this and the single “What I Like About You” have been used in later years for TV and radio commercials.
The opening of the album shows a very Kinks-stylistic tendency for the first three tracks, “When I Look In Your Eyes”, “Tell It To Carrie”, and “First In Line”, although the second track “Tell It To Carrie” almost sounds like a lost early Beatles tune. There is nothing special about the songwriting structure, lyrics or instrumentation, other than its mostly adrenaline-infused shifting guitar chord work. “Keep In Touch” bangs through a moderately paced tempo, while “Girl Next Door” hearkens to the MC5’s sound but has a little more sugar and bubblegum behind it, just like their pink leather suits. By the way, does anyone know where I can get one of those suits?
“What I Like About You” is, of course, one of the band’s biggest hits ever, not because of its initial commercial success, but because of its subsequent usage in so many commercials. Ironically, The Romantics never initially okayed the song for commercial usage. This resulted in the band seeking legal recourse against their management, which eventually got them a significant settlement and made them a good bit of money. It is a catchy tune that again juices up over the stop-start riffing of the guitars over a solid backbeat, similar to that British Invasion, be it The Kinks, The Who, or The Dave Clark Five as the influence. Very little substance in the lyrical arena, but the infusion of timely harmonica in a solo section keeps this one a long-term gem. “She’s Got Everything” is the follower, and it has a solid guitar solo, that sounds like it’s nearly out of control, but just barely reined in. I really like this one. Check out the breakdown about one minute and forty seconds in, a very nice touch. “Till I See You Again” is somewhat hack work at a slow love song, not outright horrible, but somewhat weak to the rest of the album. It does possess excellent harmonies in the vocals, however. “Hung On You” is largely forgettable, and I think I will. “Little White Lies” is a blatant rip-off of The Beatles, structurally, melodically, and any other way you can think. The final entry on this record is “Gimme One More Chance”, and it resurrects me from the disappointment I was feeling during the previous couple of songs. I am not sure what it is that I like about this one, but it fits into the album quite well, and there is another bright and shining guitar solo in this one. I have a new-found respect for this band. If you are like me and have never really listened to much by The Romantics other than the singles, do yourself a favor and go listen to this, especially if you are in an upbeat, dancing mood. It will do wonders for your soul.
OVERALL RATING: This slab earns an eight out of ten. It does so because there is no pretense at being serious at any point on the album, and the band stays true to themselves with their direction throughout; not only this, but The Romantics is just a damned good positive-feeling album, and makes me want to shake my keister. It has weak points, but they are mercifully few. The music is good without being too complex, and yet its simplicity only proves that the musicians involved understood the power of a good tune, and are more than competent. It just goes to show that Detroit is not just a haven for criminals. (Just kidding Detroit… you know I love you.)