Debora Iyall – Stay Strong (album review)

Debora Iyall – Stay Strong (Dottie Records) Album review As the frontwoman for the Eighties alternative band Romeo Void, Debora Iyall helped create some of the most challenging music ever broadcast on MTV.  Because the fledgling network was in need of videos to fill programming, they took chances with bands like Romeo Void, turning their danceably abrasive single “Never Say Never” into a surprise hit.  But, Iyall., with her husky voice and full figure, was the antithesis of the Hollywood supermodel mentality the cable channel would eventually champion.

The band’s biggest hit, “A Girl in Trouble (is a Temporary Thing)” seemed to sum up their problems – it hit the Top 40 in 1984, but their record label insisted on including a model as the “love interest” in the music video.  Soon after, the band called it quits, and Iyall left the music business completely to concentrate on her art and teaching.  Now, she’s returned with a fresh batch of songs, Stay Strong.  For this new record, she’s enlisted the help of Peter Dunne, who was a member of Pearl Harbor & the Explosions, a band that came from the same California scene as Romeo Void in the early 80’s.  Dunne handles all the backing music – guitars, keyboards and harmony vocals, and he certainly deserves some credit for giving Iyall’s lyrics a diverse setting to reside.

They range from acoustic numbers like “Creative Engine” to the distorted guitar in “99.”  Iyall seems at her best when recalling the dancier side of her former band, as in the Eighties-retro “Be My Last,” or the echoed surf guitar on “Tell Me Why.”  The opening track, “Bring It,” contains the line “I’ve worked hard to come within spitting distance of my dreams,” which seems to accurately sum up her journey.  Some of the songs deal with loss, as in the eerie “Fine Black Dust” or regret, as in the voyeuristic “One Saturday Night.”  And, despite taking a great deal of time off, her voice still has that deep resonating quality of her earlier work.  With Stay Strong, Debora Iyall proves that she’s still capable of creating challenging music – it’s good to have her back.  –Tony Peters