Formed around cult-figure fop Steve Strange (Harrington), Visage began as a part-time group uniting the formidable talents of Ultravox’s Midge Ure and Billy Currie, Dave Formula and John McGeoch (both then in Magazine) and ex-Rich Kid drummer Rusty Egan for the ultimate in dance-oriented new romanticism. Visage is filled with rich humor and sound puns in addition to solid musicianship on guitars and synthesizers; how could anyone not crack a smile over the Ennio Morricone-styled homage to Clint Eastwood, “Malpaso Man,” or the self-mocking “Visa-age”? Added to the humor, the fine music automatically deflates Strange’s colorful pretensions.
Unfortunately, those pretensions dominate The Anvil, wherein Strange attempts to wring every mannered drop of angst and meaning out of his lyrics and vocals. Luckily, the rest of Visage perform as strongly as ever, although in a far darker mood than before.
Continuing their dance-geared version of Heaven 17-styled electro-funk, Beat Boy finds Visage (comprising, this time, Strange and Egan joined by the Barnacle brothers and Andy Barnett) readier to rock, using plentiful guitar on the endless title track (and elsewhere) to color the inexorable rhythms and repetitious, vapid lyrics. The songs are incredibly (and annoyingly, if you’re paying attention) long, but there are still eight of ’em, with a total party time of over 45 minutes.
Fade to Grey is the most concise proof of Visage’s merit, compiling nine catchy slices of dance-rock (two remixed for the occasion) and an otherwise unreleased (and utterly unnecessary) cover of Zager & Evans’ “In the Year 2525.” “Pleasure Boys,” “We Move” and “Night Train” are among the best efforts, showing that conciseness can surely be an asset.
When last heard of, Strange had formed Strange Cruise with Wendy Wu, ex-lead singer of the Photos, and released an eponymous album.