Visage - The Hits (videos)

"Who can forget Steve Strange in 'The Damned Don't Cry'? This classic clip features Steve standing enigmatically on a thirties railway platform, a man haunted by his own achievements. We note Steve's enormous coat, which looks exactly like a military refrigerator-freezer. Smoke swirls around his ankles, but Steve dare not stir an inch, lest his coat bring him crashing to the ground. So there he stands- waiting, watching, slowly manufacturing ice cubes. Other points of interest in this tape include the birth of video surrealism- remember giant liquorice allsorts bounding down the stairs? chairs hanging from the ceiling? dolls-houses on fire? All this and more in 'Night Train', 'Fade To Grey', 'Mind Of A Toy', etc., etc."

VISAGE - "VISAGE" - (Mercury) - Unknown Publication

People let themselves be confused so easily, and Steve Srange's collective effort "Visage" will no doubt continue the distraction. Of course, you should find out background info. if you like the music and / or the film clip, but the crux of the matter always boomerangs back to the movements on vinyl (at least until video equipment comes in pocket-size).
On the initial score, Yes, I do like this album (except for the childish 'Mind of a Toy') and recommend it to the listening public (that's you beady-eyes). It's the old 'sophisticated' Euro-disco pulse-beat, but the overall feel ranges from superlush to a less common snappy grit&emdash;a transient but succinct statement of the art.
One could rave on concerning the associated blaze fashion movement, but you can read about that elsewhere. I guess some of you will already be arranging 'Blitz Nights' at your very own clubs, while others will just buy the album, enjoy the film clips and let the rest of the business blow over, but maybe, just maybe, someone will attempt to subvert this superficial popular momentum and make something useful of this gaudy scene. - TYRONE FLEX

Visage (PolyGram) - Unknown Publication

Stranger than Severn as it seems, the fact that Visage have burst forth onto vinyl at the same time as Spandau Ballet is entirely coincidental.
Musically, some would say it's predictable fare, what with the band consisting of such talent as John McGeoch, Dave Formula and Barry Adamson, ex and current Magaziners, Rusty Egan, and Midge Ure and Billie Currie of Ultravox.
True, there's bound to be influences filtering through from those camps, and in that sense there's no new barriers being broken nothing so startlingly new that Ultravox the Orchestrals or Bowie haven't tried it before.
The main point to Visage's advantage though, however contrary to popular belief Is that there's nothing pretentious about the music or Iyrics. It's mainly straight forward, commercial and danceable eu- ro/electro disco, much more rock oriented than Spandau.
The Bowie influence often raises its head specially in 'Blocks On Blocks', also YMOish in places, but strong on the com- mercial front. Originality is present, especially from McGeoch, who winds his unique way through 'The Dancer' with some atmospheric guitar sounds.
New single 'Fade To Grey', despite being a right rip-off of YMO's 'Femme Chihoise' with its soft French girly bits, is nevertheless a slick disco dancer.
No surprises on Side 2, just a continuation of smart if not innovative numbers. 'Malpaso Man' would make fine film theme musak, being a paean to Clint Eastwood type perfect cool cowboys.
Lyrics are sensible, never obscure or meaningless. 'Moon Over Moscow', all gay hussars and cossacks complete with Fiddler On The Roof humming, feels like the Rus- sian version of Yellow Magic.
I'd like to say visage is bound to be played in all the right clubs and discos, if there were any left to be seen in. - BETTY PAGE

VISAGE Visage (Polydor) - Unknown Publication

Visage is the new package from England. And the package is a fashion story. It's tha story of Steve Strange, the man who started the Blitz Kids cult. Or as they're sometimes called, the Now Crowd. Himself, Steve Strange is on record as preferring The Eighties Set. Anyway, it all started at The Blitz Club at Covent Garden, in London. At the Blitz Club you turned up as your own work of art. In Prince Bonnie Charlie cloak and french beret, with green eyeliner and purple lipstick.
Matching dutch clogs of course. And your girlfriend wore a 1935 wedding gown she'd found at the Hensley Church jumble sale. And pretty soon, the newspapers called around. First the thrill and shock merchants from The Sun. then the fashion columnists . . .
And suddenly it was a movement - an article in Time, lavish spreads in Continental magazines from Stem to Paris Vogue. David Bowie asksSteve Strange to play the clown in the video of Ashes to Ashes... Coincidentally, the concept was picked up as a way of life by suburban and out of London teenagers. Philip and Cathy, Barry and Harry walk into their Claygate local after a two hour ritual dress up, lounge around, have a few drinks. A defiant stand of colour in a drab world of conformity. The Telegraph Sunday Magazine sends an in-depth reporter to detail the void between dead-end daily jobs and night time fantasies. The poignant conclusions are left hanging unresolved, amidst decorative verbiage on The New Romanticism, The New Darlings of Decadence, The Conventionality of Fashionable Outrage, the New Order of Posing.
And quick, before it passes, get the record out.
Here it is, Visage, featuring Fade To Grey, the track with the video-effects that psychedelia only dreamed about. Obviously influenced by the first Roxy albums, Kraftwerk and Bowie's disco period, Visage is a thoroughly listenable, cleverly produced, effect-ridden, electronic rock album. Robotic beats, banks of varied synthesisers, flattened vocals, and the message of terminally repeated choruses. It is indeed a satisfactory example of modern electronic disco. The latest studio-conceived environment of chameleon sound. Turn it up, you can dance to it. Turn it down, it's gently rhythmic background sound. And yes, even though the new package bears a startling resemblance to some very age-old packages indeed, in an important sense, it really is music of the late '80s.
Y'see, Visage really belongs to the video disc era. - Anthony O'Gady

Visage - Various (as stated)

"...a bunch of fairly talented people pissing about in no apparent direction; this is what happens to extreme Roxy Music casualties when they grow up." - NME

"As a record this isn't that bad, but as a soundtrack for the bright young things it's not quite appropriate. It's neither dance music or a statement...It's unpretentious-strangely ordinary, like the 'movement' without it's clothes." - Melody Maker

"...the best context for it to be judged in is at full volume on a full dance floor." - Sounds

"...a highly listenable album of quality background music and the fruit of a useful collaboration amongst talented like-minded musicians." - Record Mirror

"...well crafted entertainment, eminently danceable and catchy." - Trousers Press

The Damned Don't Cry - The Face

From the seedy dilettante to society queen, Steve Stranges regs to riches story has warmed our hearts and lined his pockets. The new Visage tune "The Damned Donít Cry" is tongue in cliche and dull as dishwater.
Strange has the whole gang in on this one (R. Egan, M. Ure, B. Currie, D. Formula and B. Adamson); they all give virtuoso performances but the dreamy palpitations soon grind to a halt. Strangeís sotto volce vocals eventually coagulate and turn the record into an anhydrous lump of vinyl.
Inspired by the Luchino Visconti/Dirk Bogarde film "The Damned", things might have been different if the cover featured the divine Helmut Berger instead of .... No doubt the foggy video shown recently on Riverside was immediately Betamaxed by a herd of Vidage fans who will duly send the undeserving record high in the charts.

The Anvil - The Face

Follows a lenghthy review of Spandau Ballet's Diamond: While Spandau Ballet aim for the Guadian, Visage are sticking with the Sun. They are a sturdy business proposition - a kind of C.C.S. (remember "Turn taps on the water, see the water flow"!) for today. Mickie Most should look after their affairs.
Their latest LP "The Anvil" (Polydor) (called after New York's infamous leather'n' bondage dive) is typically practical. It gives the audience what it wants.
The cover has Steve Strange in the most recent Visconti production outfits shot by the master of untrachic soft porn, Helmut Newton, and, inevitably, Peter Saville came up with the funeral graphics. The music is once again based around a big, electronic dance throb that's now as old-hat as it is useful for clubs and parties. Wisely they restrict their 'experimental' impulses to one item, "Whispers", which being the last track can be happily ignored.
There is not much more to add. The songs are occasionally spiked with brass and funk bass lines but nobody will mind. Steve Strange is a worthy successor to the Sex Pistols for the cover of Investor's Chronical as Young Businessman of the Year.

The Anvil - N.M.E

Ideally the dandy's roll is a combative one, which is why he was oce compared with the soldier and the priest. The dandy's gesture, his stylistic preoccupations, should alienate his audience and distance him from the values od domesticity and straight society. Let's forget Steve Strange once and for all, then, as a dandy: he's too conventional for the role, too keen on the economic status quo and eager to become part of the chique establishment of international jet-setters.
Strange is the man who would be knig in this milieu, and if at one point his lust for the hip life at the top had the potential for certain selfish ironies (the lad from South Wales whose career started as a punk cast-off in The Moores Murderers but who now get invited to the right cosmopolitan parties with all the other rich high profile social termites), it's too late for that now, because Strange has succeeded too well - not with vengeance but with Visage, a studio conglomerate whose first album in late '80 became the sound for the right (often mythical) club and discos in '81. It was a fragile, even tepid, sound (fading to grey). but it wasn't easily dismissed because there was a vigorousness to it, largely due to the tight but exploratory rhythms and syn-drum antics of Rusty Egan, another quite hateful person.
The new album - and it galls me to say it, more than it does you to hear it - is better than the first. It's more professional, more danceable, much more of an exhortation to take to the floor than (a random current example) the funkier stretches of Haircut's 'Pelican West'. As for comparing Strange to his peers, those New Romantics who made promises about "white European dance music". well he's streets ahead of them and especially the ludicrous proposition which is Spandau's latest work.
A lot of the credit, of course, must go to Visage - the team. Here, you'll have to surmount yet more prejudices and forget the pomposities of Billy Currie and Midge Ure on Ultravox's 'Rage in Eden', because with Visage their keyboard and guitar dramatisations work in a nicely cinematic, vulgar way. Thanks should also go again to that Egan man - and Barry Adamson on bass, joined by another ex-member of Magazine, Dave Formula on keyboards.
On 'Night Train', with the help of Gary Barnacle on sax, the team actually get funky, working you up and working around each other. If the band are usually more glacial than this, cuts like 'The Horseman' and 'Anvil (Night Club School)' still have drive and strength. But the vigour is always qualified: 'Move Up' (no 'Move on Up') may be mobile music, but there's no aspiration, more a kind of ... dancing on the spot.
'The Anvil' may be an album which invokes the disco, but even more it wants to play in a hall of mirrors. At the same time as Visage invite dance and motion, they also obsessively concern themselves with their own reflection, with emotions whose superfiality borders on neurosis. Here the Strange voice is very much part of the musical parcel, for what else is it but a mellifluous whine, cpable of only a couple of emotions and even more the luxury of feeling next to nothing? The acheivement of 'Look What They've Done', 'Again We Love' and , to a lesser extent, 'The Damned Don't Cry' (the current single and perhaps the weakest song on the album), it to turn this heartlessness into a form of sentimentality. 'Whispers' would be in this mould if it didn't veer towards muzak and bad OMD.
'Wild Life' is the number which tries to reconcile Visage's danceable tendencies with the neurosis and toy melancholy of their leader. It can never be: the synths snarl with indifference and Strange's nighlife manifesto is that of a paper tiger cut into dinky little dollies. Maybe nobody will care too much about the failed attempt at cruelty, at Emotion, becausr the packaging is just so - and that means the assembling of another sort of team: Hair by Ollie, Clothes by Anthony Price, Presentation by Peter Saville, and Photography by Helmut Newton.
I'd thought 'Contort Yourself' the right kind of music for Newton's sado-roticism, but 'The Anvil' is a greater approximation. You wanted the moderne dance, well (forget your DAFs and Japans and Simple Minds on Virgin's 'Methods of Dance' compiltation) here it is: the night time moves of marionettes, dummies, puppets, clowns and imaginary celluloid beings. It's all a little deathly, the sound of commodities fucking, but a noise which can be a good deal more exhilarating ("the sex appeal of the inorganic" - Walter Benjamin) than healthy fun-loving creatures going at it.
All in all, Visage are a rather seductive disease, the skull beneath the made-up skin. On this album they've produced the most consumate backing tracks. Backing for what exactly? It's up to you to find out: all I'll say is that if Roxy were still fired by their original aesthetics, this is the kind of area they'd be covering - with alot more flesh and humanity naturally. - Paul Tickell.

The Anvil - Various (as stated)

"Visage now resembles Ultravox with Currie and Ure imitating themselves." - Trouser Press

"The blandness is underwhelming. Some parts are pleasing, but others are heartless, overproduced, characterless slabs of wallpaper disco." - Sounds

"An excellent LP. Potentially as vital and influential in its field as the Human League's Dare." - Melody Maker.

The Singles Collection - Various (as stated)

"Visage aren't quite as bad as everybody remembers them. That is, of course, if anyone remembers them at all." - Melody Maker.

"Visage engendered an ugly, corrosive, collective mentality - the very antithesis of their necessarily vague manifesto...they come out of this retrospective album seeming as alluring as a bunch of red-nosed clowns, whose only tear was shed on the way to the bank." - Sounds.

"...electro-diskow at it's most vacuous... An overpainted speck on the history of pop and as they say, last year's make up was just some poor animal's bollocks." - Record Mirror.

It shows how quickly the music press turns on a scene they embraced at the time. Out of interest what did Sounds have to say about Ultravox's Lament album of the same year:

"Bland, tuneless songs ... 'Lament is nothing more than a flaccid placebo ... it's contents prove Ultravox to be little more than a pimple on the arse of the industry."

Reviews by Caroline Allen:

Visage (1980)

Visage make a macho, forceful music with sparkling keyboards and an insistent dance beat not a millon miles away from the music of today, but with marvellous melody thrown in as well. They are absolutely irresistible - you miss Visage at your musical peril!

The LP begins with a pounding, rousing anthem, the title track, which fades into `Blocks on Blocks', which is eerie and conjures images of a night journey through an abandoned concrete city. This progresses in turn to a marvellous Midge Ure composition, The Dancer, which he took on tour with him in 1985. Plenty of drums, keyboard chords, guitar and energy, not to mention a few surprises too! Listen for the subtle rhythm variations through this piece. This LP also includes `Fade to Grey', unsurpassed and in a class of its own. Listen to those keyboards, that bassline...ANYWAY, we move swiftly onto `Malpaso Man', a complete change of mood; a strong chanted, guitar based song. Look out for Midge on backing vocals! `Mind of a Toy' was a hit single and seems to be the most `commercial' song on the LP. `Moon over Moscow' is an electronic instrumental, founded on a marvellous melody, built on in turn with layered vocals and some powerful chords and rhythms. `Visa-age' is my favourite track, with a very strong `hook' and describing one of my favourite subjects! (Travel). `The Steps' is a short, experimental instrumental. I would recommend this LP to anyone who has lived through the past 15 years (ie everyone)- it is innovative, imaginative, musical and still very, very relevent.


>> the anvil << (1982)

This, the second LP from Visage, was released in the same year as Quartet, and the Ultravox influences are far stronger. The line-up features the same Strange/Currie/Ure/Egan/Formula/McGeogh line-up and this work has an overall less hard edge than the first and a more polished production. The whole LP would work wonderfully as a film soundtrack.

The bass and keyboards feature more prominently and the individual Currie/Ure styles appear clearly in individual songs. I am guessing, but I would credit Midge with `Move Up' and `The Horseman'; full of melodic hooks and symphonic power; compare this with the delicate Currie-style beauty of `Again We Love', `What Have You Done To Me' and `Whispers'.

The remaining songs are all strong, rhythmic dance tracks. Of the two which stand out most, `The Anvil' title track is evocative of the 80's club scene and is infuriatingly catchy, whilst `The Damned Don't Cry' is a marvellous pop song.


A couple of reviews by Al Crawford:

Fade to Grey - The Singles Collection

Originally released in 1983, it's taken until 1991 for this Visage compilation to find its way onto CD as a German release. Was it worth the wait?

That really depends on whether you've anxiously been seeking out all the little tidbits of Visage that have found their way onto CD over the years or not. If you haven't, but liked Visage anyway, this is well worth buying, combining as it does all their hits in one disc. However, for the true fanatic it's worth is reduced considerably. The only genuinely new (to CD) track is the cover of Zager & Evans' "In The Year 2525" - everything else has been put out before, either on the CD releases of Visage and The Anvil (these two discs account for "Mind Of A Toy", "Tar", "The Anvil", "Night Train", "Pleasure Boys" and "Damned Don't Cry"), the Mind Of A Toy CDV ("We Move (Remix)") and the German "Fade To Grey" CD5 ("Fade To Grey (12" Version)").

A shame really, as if they'd dug a little deeper they'd have uncovered the cassette version of this album, which contained new remixes of every track (with the exception of "2525") plus the German language version of "The Anvil" - "Der Amböss". As it is, this disc is a nice purchase for the casual buyer but it's value to the collector/fan is reduced greatly - a CD release of the cassette version would, however, have been a must. This is still a welcome addition to my collection but I suspect it's still the cassette that's going to be played most often. 

Fade to Grey - Bassheads 93 Remix

Those who regularly read my reviews will no doubt already be able to guess the contents of my review of this particular remix single. However, before the aberration that is "Fade To Grey - Bassheads 93 Remix" is committed to a deep, dark hole, never to be seen again, I suppose I should still make some attempt at reviewing it, if only so I can say some nasty things about it.

"Fade To Grey" was, of course, the New Romantic anthem. Originally released late in 1980 it was the group's biggest hit and with a new Visage singles compilation due out in the UK on 27th September (presumably the old Fade To Grey - The Singles Collection souped up a little by the addition of a couple of tacky dance remixes) it was almost inevitable that they'd remix this one and put it out as a single.

If you ever have the misfortune of hearing it, you'll really wish you hadn't. Quite how Bassheads have managed to misinterpret the feel of the original song so drastically boggles the mind. The original, while definitely a dance track, had a fragile, haunting quality. The first remix is standard, boring, identikit 90s dance. Out go all the original synths, out goes almost everything except the vocals, in comes a cliched beat, in comes the remixers being "creative" by replacing as much of the track as they can get away with. It's ghastly. The second remix is worse still - "Fade To Grey" reduced to awful Altern-8 style rave fodder.

The original version offers a brief respite from the steady rain of musical heresies and momentarily reminds the listener that once, long ago, "Fade To Grey" was actually a good song. Subtle beat, wonderful synths. True, time and repeated listening have dulled its impact somewhat, but not enough for it to deserve the indignities heaped upon it in the other mixes here.

Next we have, ahem, the "Bassheads Dub". I've long since learned that the minute a remixer puts their own name somewhere in the song title, it's time to take cover. This particular musical monstrosity adds the inevitable wailing diva, a completely new beat and bears little/no resemblance to the original track whatsoever. Steve Strange would turn in his grave - if he was dead. He isn't, but after hearing the "Bassheads Trance" mix he might well be, coroner's verdict - boredom. Dull, trance dance with the only element of the original track to survive the slaughter being the "We fade to grey" refrain.

The guilty party behind the "Subliminal Mix" is Hypnotic State, who are also responsible for the 7" remix and the "Wild Cat Mix". Now when I'd heard the name I'd been hopeful - perhaps the changes they'd made were subliminal and the end result was a skilfully crafted remix that managed to evoke all the feeling of the original while still sounding contemporary? Nope, 'fraid not, the "Subliminal" apparently refers to what remains of the original track. They've even messed around with those few vocal snippets they've used.

Thirty-nine minutes of musical misery is nicely rounded off by the "Wild Cat Mix". Let's face it, I don't have to say anything about it, you know what I'm going to say already. What puzzles me is that so many remixers who claim to have been influenced by the likes of Visage and other early 80s dance music can then proceed to demonstrate little or no affinity for the feel of the music, resulting in the likes of this, another lamb led to the slaughter at the holy altar of the dance floor.

Overall, I think you could say that I don't like it very much.