Review by Simon Saynor

Fresh from supporting P!NK (no less!), on the European leg of her Beautiful Trauma tour, Bang Bang Romeo unleash one of the most hotly tipped, and certainly most anticipated, debut albums of the last five years.

A Heartbreaker’s Guide To The Galaxy launches with a laid back, ethereal snippet of ‘Natural Born Astronaut’ and from that very moment the album is firing on all cylinders. For the seasoned fan old favourites are on the flight path (‘Cemetery’, ‘Chemical’, ‘Adore Me’) interspersed with tracks so fresh you may have only heard them live, if at all. It’s a perfect blend.

Album Cover FINAL 2019

Our journey starts with ‘Cemetery. Initially the song had the parenthesised addition (Ode To The Independent Record Store) and so it is that we find ourselves pining for those Saturday mornings when we browsed our local record shop’s dusty aisles and ‘found The Smiths and The Flaming Lips’. It’s a driving tune, positively upbeat for what is after all a downbeat message. (As an ex-record shop owner I know the pain only too well). Trademark Ross Cameron hooks and riffs already make their mark as Anastasia Walker (Stars)’s frankly stunning vocals soar and plunge through the track. More of THAT voice later.

The title track of last year’s EP ‘Shame On You’ follows, the song that brought the band to the attention of Pink’s people. A pounding rock anthem, distilled with funk, berating all those bad relationship decisions we all make. And will make again. Stars’ plaintive ‘Here we go again’ says it all. It’s a relentless track. By the end you’re dripping with wonderful guilt.

‘Bag Of Bones’ is the natural stablemate of ‘Shame On You’ both in message and feel. If you can tear yourself away from the vocal (and that is no mean feat) then immerse yourself in what’s lurking beneath. Here be Demons! Again you feel like you need a shower and maybe a week in confessional.

The oldest track and what will be (if it isn’t already) Bang Bang Romeo’s signature ‘Chemical’ breezes in to cleanse our collective souls. It is simply magnificent. A soaring, rousing epic (written by a then teenage Ross) pleading that love is surely more than just a chemical reaction. It is beautifully emotive, Stars’ vocal reaching unbelievable heights. ‘Love is the one sure thing’. It crashes with the nagging voices that love brings but fights through everything. Love is indeed the one sure thing.

We emerge, absolved, into fan favourite ‘Adore Me’. It is clear some serious thought has been put into the track listing. ‘Chemical’ and ‘Adore Me’ the catharsis needed after ‘Shame On You’ and ‘Bag Of Bones’. Hauntingly beautiful, ‘Adore Me’ builds and builds and builds. The gentle intro lulling us in, Stars’ vocal flying before the track peaks and Ross and drummer Richard Gartland take us head first through an almighty crescendo. It is, quite simply, a massive hug of a song.

The album hits powerhouse mode with the mighty ‘You & I’, a lyric Stars wrote whilst watching the news of the Orlando nightclub shootings. This is a song that should be drilled into every homophobic’s dull-witted head, every night. It kicks off with the full force of Ross’ guitar. A mind- melting beast of a riff that carries us through the nightmare of ‘We need healing. If there’s a cure then show me’. The whole band are on fire right here. Richard’s drumming forcing every beat straight through your heart. Every great album has that one song that everything revolves around. ‘You & I’ is ‘A Heartbreaker’s Guide To The Galaxy’s’ rock.

The soundtrack to your favourite nightmares continues as Bang Bang Romeo remain right in your face with ‘Invitation’, Stars’ voice dark and destroying. You truly believe she is more than capable of tearing you ‘into tiny little pieces’. It’s an invite you cannot and should not resist. Just know that you won’t be the same when BBR have finished with you. The song is an absolute monster, the band pinning you down as Stars rips your heart out whilst leaving you lusting for more.

‘Love Out Of Me’ has an electronic, almost classical feel to it. It’s another trip through the classier parts of hell. It’s Dante’s Inferno for the 21st Century. Ever loved someone so much it scares, well, the life out of you? It’s all here. It’s a caged animal; vulnerable, but at its most threatening. Oh and if there’s any justice the search for the next Bond theme stops right here!

We get some respite as the band take things down a notch (just the one) with the bluesy ‘Runaway’. Lyrically it is no less foreboding but we get to sit at the back of a smoky club with a stiff Honey JD, assessing our life decisions whilst involuntarily foot tapping.

If ‘Love Out Of Me’ opens the next 007 film then ‘Over My Dead Body’ closes it. Another absolutely gorgeous melody, Ross’ guitar swaying you gently but with Stars’ soulful delivery imploring ‘there’s a cold war coming, keep moving’.

This is a debut album, albeit several years in the making, yet they take you through the whole gamut of emotions. A range few bands could match by album three, let alone their first.

Dare we say genius?

Hell yes!

And we’re not at the end of our journey yet. As stated before the track listing has obviously been poured over and put together lovingly, without a trick missed. As the anthemic ‘Natural Born Astronaut’ begins to take us back down to Earth, we’re going out on a high. Uplifting, powerful, joyous, glorious, magnificent, triumphant. Stars’ voice wrapping itself round your heart, Ross’ guitar swirling through your mind like a savage butterfly, Richard’s drumming enveloping you safely and securely.

Photo Credit1 Holly Rose

Photo Credit: Holly Rose

The Latest single, ‘Love Yourself’ featuring and co-written with Example sees us home (almost). Not standard Bang Bang Romeo fare and yet unmistakably BBR and by no means out of place. As the lyrics suggest it is a simple plea to love yourself as much as the one you love. The juxtaposition of voices/genres just works. Superbly. It is a potential game changer for the band.

We get another brief glimpse of ‘Natural Born Astronaut’, this time almost exclusively on the piano, to close us out. It is achingly beautiful.

Bonus track. ‘Beautiful World’. I did promise we would talk about the absolute weapon that is Anastasia Walker’s voice. ‘Beautiful World’ shows it off for what it is – the best female voice this country has right now. Deep, dark and soulful as the track builds. Ross’ guitar pleading. Stars’ vocal going ever further. Rising, raucous, perfect. It is staggering to listen to. Listen to that finale. The peaks and troughs. Not one breath is wasted. It is as remarkable a vocal performance as you will ever hear. And once you’ve listened, listen again. That was all in one take. Saved the best for last? I think they may well have. It is pure class.

A Heartbreaker’s Guide To The Galaxy – it can destroy your soul and mend it in the same breath. There are songs here that bands with long established careers would kill for. There is talent here that many can only dream of. This album is a work of art. A phenomenal debut.

A Heartbreaker’s Guide To The Galaxy is released 1st November 2019 via Eleven Seven Label Group

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