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In Memory Of...

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Album Review

Following recent reunions by M People and Lighthouse Family, Northern Irish duo D:Ream are the latest '90s MOR pop act to make a comeback, a full 16 years after their last release, World. Best-known for their anthemic chart-topper "Things Can Only Get Better," which later became synonymous with Tony Blair's historic 1997 election victory due to its use as the Labor Party's official theme song, their belated third album (fourth if you count the unreleased Heap of Faith), is the first time the original pairing of vocalist Peter Cunnah and producer Al McKenzie have recorded together since their 1993 debut D:Ream On, Vol. 1. Cunnah has since written songs for the likes of bubblegum outfits A1 and Steps, and appeared on Chicane's 2003 hit "Love on the Run," but released through their own User Records label, In Memory Of... has a slightly darker alternative edge which sits somewhere between their early, clubbier material and the indie pop of Cunnah's former noughties outfit Shane. It's a change in direction which works well on the pulsating "Gods in the Making," a guitar-charged slice of new wave/electro which features vocals from Urban Cookie Collective's Diane Charlemagne and former keyboardist Brian Cox, now more famous as a BBC astronomer, and opening track "All Things to All Men," an '80s-inspired blend of Balearic beats, filtered house hooks, and a storming, echoey guitar solo reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac's "Big Love." But elsewhere, it's apparent that low-budget production values mean it lacks the necessary oomph it so badly needs to fulfill its indie-disco ambitions. "Into the Fray," a dismal attempt at a Depeche Mode-esque gothic-electro stomper, sounds like a particularly ropey '70s glam band has just discovered the synthesizer; the experimental jazz-rock noodlings of "Free Thinkin' Mind" sound like a muddy recording of a below-par Jamiroquai tribute act, while "U Make Me" is a monotonous sub-Erasure synth pop dirge with lyrics so hopelessly basic they make Justin Bieber seem like Leonard Cohen. A misguided attempt at political discourse on the New Order pastiche "Drop Beatz Not Bombs" proves that they're not much better at tackling more serious subject matter, either, while the nine-minute closing track "We Are Fans" is a meandering and aimless stab at a Paul Van Dyk trance epic, which has the feel of a pair of middle-aged guys trying to unwisely reclaim their youth. Pictured in front of a huge disco ball on its front cover, it's a shame that D:Ream didn't bring some of that dancefloor sensibility to the actual content inside it. Fans hoping for anything as joyous as "UR the Best Thing" or as instantly uplifting as "Party Up the World" will be sorely disappointed. ~ Jon O'Brien, Rovi

Biography

Formed: 1991 in London, England

Genre: Dance

Years Active: '90s

Peter Cunnah and DJ Al MacKenzie captured the number one spot on U.S. and U.K. dance charts in mid-1992 with their first techno-pop single, "U R The Best Thing." A remix of the single hit No. 1 on the U.K. pop charts in early 1994, and their debut album, D:REAM...
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In Memory Of..., D:Ream
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