Altered Images

  • Altered Images
  • Happy Birthday (Portrait) 1981  (Epic) 1990 
  • Pinky Blue (Portrait) 1982 
  • Bite (Portrait) 1983 
  • Collected Images (UK Epic) 1984 
  • Mascara Streakz (Cooking Vinyl) 2022 

Led by baby-voiced singer Claire Grogan, this twinky Scottish nuevo pop quintet hit high in the British singles charts with catchy, uncomplicated tunes like “Happy Birthday” and “Dead Pop Stars.” Grogan’s cutesy-poo vocals, however, were not universally appreciated; many found the group more precious than charming. Four different producers are credited on the three original albums; they clearly wielded powerful influence on these impressionable youngsters.

Except for the Martin Rushent-produced title track, the first LP (otherwise produced mainly by Banshees bassist Steve Severin) shows no signs of life. The songs drag along, refusing to make any instrumental impression, relying on the singing, which just isn’t enough.

Rushent produced all of Pinky Blue, revealing Altered Images to be a clever dance-pop force. With gleaming, bouncy sound, the songs jump out in classic hit single fashion — “See Those Eyes” and “I Could Be Happy” especially provide the joyous setting that Grogan’s voice needs to succeed. (The cover of Neil Diamond’s cloying “Song Sung Blue,” however, should have been nixed.)

Bite is something of a departure. From the mature-young-sophisticate photo of Grogan on the front cover to the lush disco sound — strings, chorus, sax, wah-wah guitar, the works — of “Bring Me Closer,” the album foolishly attempts to haul Altered Images out of their adolescent innocence and make them a Scottish Blondie. Worse, the equal division of production responsibilities between Tony Visconti and Mike Chapman leaves the record with a wicked case of split personality. Visconti’s tracks are basically heartless dance numbers — Abba gone funky. While Chapman’s also trespass in the same terrain, “Change of Heart,” “Another Lost Look” and the memorable “Don’t Talk to Me About Love” are attractive pop that retain some of the band’s winsome charm. (The English cassette has extra tracks and bonus remixes.) Collected Images is a reasonable posthumous compilation.

After the band’s end, members went on to Hipsway, Texas and One Dove. Grogan released a single (the only public results of a shelved solo album) and acted on film, stage and TV. She also formed a band called Universal Love School.

[Ira Robbins]

See also: Hipsway, One Dove, Texas