Fashion emerged from Birmingham in the late ’70s with a facility for clever pop that cannibalized aspects of reggae, punk and electro-pop and converted them into a mode that scarcely resembled the parent forms. Product Perfect verges on being cheerless, but Fashion infuses it with such good humor and imaginative effects that it seems a wry parody of everything from Madness to Joy Division. Lyrics and tunes are at first unmemorable, but subtle hooks become apparent after several listenings.
Fabrique finds the group, expanded from a trio to a quartet, in a more serious mood, exchanging jokey pop for fierce, funky dance music, including the striking “Move On.” Curiously, the songs have immediate impact (in comparison to those on the first LP) but lack the staying power of their earlier work. Nevertheless, the playing is precise and energetic, with more distinct lyrics sung better than ever.
Despite a third label and another personnel change, the same musical style prevails on much of Twilight of Idols: muscular dance-rock with the emphasis on solid rhythms and rich vocals rather than gimmicky effects or stylish textures. The exceptional tunes (like the delicate instrumental title track) hold down the energy and get sensitive, at times nearing a Pink Floyd (!) sound. On the hotter numbers, wild guitar (Alan Darby, also the writer of nearly all the material) and slick production gambits (by Zeus B. Held) provide the character the songs themselves lack.