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Pop - Released January 1, 1993 | Polydor

Fade to Grey includes the best of the band's Kraftwerk-inspired, post-disco synth-pop like "Fade to Grey" (of course), "Damned Don't Cry," "The Anvil" and "Night Train," as well as their cover of the Zager & Evans chestnut "In the Year 2525." There are only 12 tracks, but since it's the only collection available, it'll have to do. © John Bush /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 1980 | Polydor

With apologies to Spandau Ballet, Ultravox, and even Duran Duran, this is the music that best represents the short-lived but always underrated new romantic movement. That's fitting, because Visage's frontman, Steve Strange, was the colorfully painted face of the movement, just as this album was its sound. Warming up Kraftwerk's icy Teutonic electronics with a Bowie-esque flair for fashion, Strange and the new romantics created a clubland oasis far removed from the drabness of England's early-'80s reality -- and the brutality of the punk response to it. And no one conjured up that Eurodisco fantasyland better than Visage, whose "Fade to Grey" became the anthem of the outlandishly decked-out Blitz Kids congregated at Strange's club nights. With its evocative French female vocals, distant sirens and pulsing layers of synthesizers, "Fade to Grey" is genuinely haunting, the definite high point for Visage and their followers. But the band's self-titled debut is a consistently fine creation, alternating between tunes that share the eerie ambience of "Fade to Grey" ("Mind of a Toy," "Blocks on Blocks") and others that show off a more muscular brand of dance-rock (the title track, filled with thundering electronic tom-tom fills, and the sax-packed instrumental "The Dancer"). Strange and drummer/nightclub partner Rusty Egan had wisely surrounded themselves with top-level talent, primarily drawn from the bands Ultravox and Magazine, and the excellent playing of contributors like guitarists Midge Ure and John McGeoch, bassist Barry Adamson, synthesist Dave Formula, and, especially, electric violinist Billy Currie, all of whom give the album a depth unmatched by most contemporaneous techno-pop. And despite the group's frequently dramatic pose, Strange and his bandmates were hardly humorless; the first single, "Tar," is a witty anti-smoking advertisement, while the Eastwood homage "Malpaso Man" adds some incongruous cowboy twang to the dance beats. Only the closing track, the instrumental "The Steps," is inconsequential -- the rest of Visage proves the new romantics left a legacy that transcends their costumes and makeup. [Note to collectors: The 1997 One Way reissue of the album adds a bonus track, the longer (and far superior) dance mix of "Fade to Grey." Opening with the tune's arresting synth-bass riff, and featuring a extended fade marked by exploding backbeats, it heightens the song's moody atmosphere, and is the way this club classic was meant to be heard.] © Dan LeRoy /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 1982 | Polydor

When they recorded the follow-up to their surprisingly successful debut, the members of Visage appeared to be dealing from a position of strength. But the dance club-fueled, style-obsessed new romantic movement that had propelled the group to success in England was already crumbling, and frontman Steve Strange had begun to take his role as the movement's figurehead a little too seriously. The Anvil, rumored to be the subject of a multi-million dollar feature film (a project that never materialized), emphasizes Strange's penchant for melancholy and melodrama. Where the band's debut undercut such pretensions with humorous tracks like the twangy "Malpaso Man," only one tune here -- "Night Train," with a rubbery bassline and blasts of brass backing a tongue-in-cheek tale of intrigue -- dares to take liberties with Visage's moody image. Still, with backing from the same core of post-punk all-stars (Ultravox's Midge Ure -- who co-produced the album -- and violinist Billy Currie, as well as Magazine keyboardist Dave Formula), Strange and drummer Rusty Egan sound just as good as before, and despite once again closing an album with a forgettable instrumental ("Whispers"), almost all the band's efforts on The Anvil are extremely well-crafted synth pop. Two, in fact, are essential new wave artifacts. The title track takes a despairing look around clubland, setting Strange's best-ever lyric to a grim parody of a hit in the meatmarket disco it describes; it suggests he'd become disillusioned with the scene that had spawned Visage. "The Damned Don't Cry," meanwhile, is even better, a ghostly groove that comes closer than anyone would have thought possible to recapturing the haunted magnificence of "Fade to Grey," the band's signature hit. [Note to collectors: The 1997 One Way reissue appends two bonus tracks to the running order. Welcome is the rocked-up remix of "We Move," one of Visage's best singles. The dance mix of "Frequency 7," a bleeping and buzzing electro-instrumental, is fun but nonessential.] © Dan LeRoy /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 1984 | Polydor

The third and final album from new romantic icons Visage found foppish frontman Steve Strange and drummer Rusty Egan almost completely without most of the high-profile sidemen -- like Midge Ure, keyboardist Billy Currie and bassist Barry Adamson -- who'd played such a big role in crafting the group's lush, haunting synth pop. Undeterred, Strange and Egan recruited a new lineup that gave a prominent role to saxophonist Gary Barnacle. But the real shock to fans was the shrieking, metallic guitar that appeared on most cuts, an intrusion that seemed completely at odds with the suave, continental image suggested by past hits like "Fade to Grey" and "The Damned Don't Cry." In fact, the guitar muscle worked surprisingly well when simply overlaid atop the group's familiar dance pulse, as on the title track and "The Promise." But straight-up rockers like the endless "Only the Good (Die Young)" and "Casualty" featured a lethal combination of ham-handed riffs and dumb lyrics, thoroughly alienating the blitz kids who'd once packed the London discos Strange and Egan ran. Those fans made a club hit of the melodic "Love Glove," the closest thing here to Visage's classic sound, but ignored the rest, making Beat Boy a disappointing swan song for the group. Yet despite the uneven songwriting, hindsight showed that Strange's ear for the next big trend hadn't deserted him. The next year, the success of Duran Duran offshoot the Power Station had synth poppers on both sides of the Atlantic scurrying to rough up their dance tracks with heavy guitar. Perhaps in this case, the colorfully costumed Strange -- who later displayed his sartorial sense in a new band, Strange Cruise, before largely bowing out of the music biz -- was just too far in front of the fashion curve. © Dan LeRoy /TiVo
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Lounge - Released April 17, 2020 | Visage Records