Talk about DIY Á¢€” when club promoter and all-around Paris-Hilton-famous-for-merely-being-famous trailblazer Steven Strange didnÁ¢€â„¢t like that there werenÁ¢€â„¢t enough good songs to play on his club night, he grabbed some friends, some synths and made his own.
Under the name Visage, Strange, alongside a few former Magazine members and a couple of future Ultravox members including Midge Ure, created the template for the New Romantic movement of the early Á¢€Ëœ80s Á¢€” moody chords, high-hat heavy automated percussion and lyrics about fashion, clubbing and nightlife. They scored a club hit with their first few singles, Á¢€Å“TarÁ¢€, a remake of Á¢€Å“In The Year 2525Á¢€ and of course, Á¢€Å“Fade to GreyÁ¢€, which ended up going to the Top Ten of the pop charts in the U.K.
Then came follow up time.
Luckily, VisageÁ¢€â„¢s debut album was pretty strong from front to back, so culling a few more singles wasnÁ¢€â„¢t a problem. In fact, Á¢€Å“Mind of a ToyÁ¢€ is one of the better songs on the album, an ode from the point of view of a discarded toy, campy to the extreme, especially when Steven spits out Á¢€Å“spiteful girl, hateful boyÁ¢€ during the chorus. I still laugh every time, 25 years later. A nouveaux classique, to turn a phrase.
When it came time for album #2, dubbed Á¢€Å“The AnvilÁ¢€ after the notorious NYC leather bar, things started to fall apart. There are still some great tunes, but the album as a whole was nowhere as strong as their first. Standouts were the title track, Á¢€Å“We MoveÁ¢€ and the first single, Á¢€Å“The Damned DonÁ¢€â„¢t CryÁ¢€, which instead of merely emulating Á¢€Å“Fade to GreyÁ¢€â„¢sÁ¢€ sound and success, built upon it. ThereÁ¢€â„¢s a little less humor, a little more struggle for depth, unfortunately, the boys just werenÁ¢€â„¢t good enough to pull it off completely. Reviews were scathingÁ¢€¦I canÁ¢€â„¢t find it anywhere online, but I remember Rolling Stone eviscerating Á¢€Å“The AnvilÁ¢€, awarding it a measly one star and proclaiming it Á¢€Å“fashion over music.Á¢€ ThatÁ¢€â„¢s when I knew I had to own it.
After Á¢€Å“The AnvilÁ¢€, Ure and most of the musical braintrust left, leaving Strange to wobble on with new backing for one final album until giving up. Strange later went on to a smack habit, culminating in an arrest in London for attempting to shoplift a Teletubbie. HeÁ¢€â„¢s apparently clean now and fronting a new version of Visage that was on tap to remix Kelly OsbourneÁ¢€â„¢s last single Á¢€Å“One WordÁ¢€, a song that more than liberally borrows from Á¢€Å“Fade to GreyÁ¢€. That remix has yet to surface.
Listening to both albums today, I find they both hold up a lot better than works by VisageÁ¢€â„¢s contemporaries, including Spandau Ballet and Gary Numan. Visage sort of became the bridge between Morodor-era Donna Summer and more commercial new wave that came after VisageÁ¢€â„¢s time in the spotlight, sort of an Áƒ¼ber-disco.
Á¢€Å“The AnvilÁ¢€ is currently out of print, having its most recent reissue in 1997 by One Way Records, but you can still get Visage’s first album fairly cheaply on Amazon as a import.
Neither single charted in the U.S.