CD Review: When In Rome II S/T

Back in the eighties, many British bands made their way into American households by way of the radio for a second time, with the first time having been referred to as the British Invasion. Bands that were part of that “New Wave” included A Flock of Seagulls, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Joy Division, and on and on. And while the aforementioned bands were some of the best known, there were plenty of others that were part of the ‘wave” that never gained the same popularity. One such band that had not reached that same popularity here in the United States was the group known as When in Rome.

The original version of When in Rome came together in the late eighties. In 1987, Michael Floreale and Andy O’Connell were recruited by Clive Farrington after Farrington had dissolved the band he had previously been a part of. Together, the trio created a synthesizer-heavy Pop sound that fell into the Synth Pop category, and When in Rome was born. That band would record one album that would produce the band’s only real hit entitled “The Promise,” a song that would reach #11 on the Charts and #1 on the Dance charts here in the U.S. Before too long, this band too would have a falling out, resulting in Michael Floreale being fired by the remaining band members O’Connell and Farrington. Floreale would move to the United States while the other two stayed in Great Britain, and two bands would now use the band name. However, Michael Floreale’s version of the band here in the United States is called When in Rome II.

Under the moniker of When in Rome II, Michael Floreale brought together a new group of musicians. The lineup for When in Rome II would include: new singer/songwriter Johnny Ceravolo as well as Chris Willet (drums) and Michael Floreale (piano and keyboards). This lineup created the band’s 2015 self-titled release. And while this new band still has a sound that revolves around the keyboard, this ensemble’s music draws from Alternative Rock as much as it draws from New Wave. Imagine the synth sound of Depeche Mode from the eighties combining with the darker feel of Depeche Mode from the nineties with some Pop-Rock influences and you get somewhat of an idea of what When in Rome II’s music sounds like. This musical blend appears on the band’s 2015 self-titled release.

The 2015 self-titled release from When in Rome II begins with the track “Last Train”. The track begins with the sound of the synthesizer from Michael Floreale creating a slightly dark atmospheric approach. Soon, that synthesizer is joined by Johnny Ceravolo on guitar helping to complete the Alternative Rock feel to the track. What results is a sound that blends together some Depeche Mode with some Nine Inch Nails. The track has a strong, driving feel to the music that places the song somewhere in the middle of the nineties, musically speaking. The song contains rather grave lyrics as the words were inspired by someone attempted to end his life in front of a train, hence the title of the track. The overall feel of the song sort of brings to mind the song “Blasphemous Rumours” from Depeche Mode as both songs come from rather grim places.  

When In Rome II continues their album with the song “Come On”. With this track, the music takes on a lighter feel as a lot of the dark musical undertones of the last track are replaced by more Pop-like notes, bringing the band’s sound closer to what When in Rome had been in the eighties. In fact, “Come On” feels like a combination of eighties New Wave and early U2. This musical blend creates a track with a very commercial feel to it. Lyrically, the band seems to create a track that answers the dark, grave message in “Last Train” with a lighter, more upbeat message that life actually is worth living.

The feel of the music changes on the next track called “Let it Go”. Where the first two track are very synth-heavy, “Let it Go” showcases the guitar playing of Johnny Ceravolo as the acoustic guitar helps to create the musical base to the track. That acoustic guitar creates a much lighter pace to the music, creating a sound that is almost Pop-like. That Pop-Rock blends together acoustically-driven music that is flavored by the addition of the electric guitar to create a track that would easily fit onto a Top 40 radio format. And with the upbeat lyrics of the track that encourage the listener to see the bright side of things, this track would fit rather well on those Top 40 radio stations.

It is with the next track called “Eventide” that When in Rome II creates one of the most listener-friendly tracks on the album. The track begins with the swirling sound of a synthesizer creating a loop that brings to mind something from the eighties. That synthesizer loop is then layered with piano, guitar, bass and drums to create sound that feels rather timeless. What results is a track that would have fit anywhere in the late eighties into the nineties. This track brings to mind a newer version of the sound found in “The Promise,” the track that once made a name for When in Rome. Like earlier tracks on the self-titled release from When in Rome II, “Eventide” is a rather commercial track that would fit well on Top 40 radio alongside U2, INXS, or even the more commercial tracks from Duran Duran.

On the track “Giving Up,” When in Rome II brings back a Pop-Rock feel to the music as the track features the sound the piano as the main instrument creating a track with a soft, easy feel to the music, much like songs from the Lite Rock days of the eighties. The easy feel of the music, the sound of the piano and the light guitar in the back of the song all blend together and create a sound that is rather reminiscent of someone like Little River Band or Air Supply who were known for their overly laidback musical approach. For fans of that style of music, “Giving Up” is a nice reminder of that era.

While 2015 release from When in Rome II features mainly new material, this band brings their album to a close with the very song that made a name for the band- “The Promise”. And while the Michael Floreale-led band does revisit this track, they do not recreate what had come before. After all, this is not the same band and they do not have the same feel as the original trio. The 2015 version of the song, called “The Promise 2.0” finds the band creating a rather different version of the classic track. Where the original song had the New Wave feel to the Rock and Roll, the new version finds the band slowing things down and creating a track with a slower pace to it. The track also has a more prominent piano presence than the original version. And with Johnny Ceravolo’s deeper register when compared with Clive Farrington’s vocals, the deeper voice and slower pace create a track that feels more like a ballad than the original track. After a minute or so, the band returns a bit of the energy back to song. The track lives up to the original versions and while “The Promise 2.0” is not that original track, the listener will find this new version grows on them rather quickly.  

The original band called When in Rome only lasted three years before it imploded. When in Rome II has already bypassed that mark and is still going. In fact, Michael Floreale’s When in Rome II (with new vocalist Tony Fennell) is currently making the rounds as part of the Siriusxm Presents Totally 80’s Live tour with The Motels and Bow Wow Wow. Check out the 2015 self-titled release from When in Rome II, then check the internet to see if and when the tour is coming to your town.

 

To check out the music of When in Rome II, check out the track “The Promise 2.0”.

To check out the self-titled album from When in Rome II, click on the album cover below: 

 

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