[…continued from previous post]
The new extended version of “The Anvil” maintains the palpable undercurrents of aggression from the short mix, but the grinding, methodical pace of the bass synth and Robin Simon’s rhythm guitar combine with the drumming and finally, the Moroderesque sequencers to make this mix a pulsating dance floor monster. I love how Simon’s vaporous lead guitars hang menacingly over it all like a fog.
The new extended version of “The Pleasure Boys” was another case of taking a fair 12″ version from 1982 and re-wiring it from the ground up so that the new cut was absolutely definitive. The original single was something of a paradigm shift as it was the first Visage song recorded without Midge Ure’s participation. It was a harder electro sound that relied on syncopated beatbox and new bassist Steve Barnacle’s funk popping. Even the synths were rhythmic.
The original 12″ version was something of a wash with the single edit simply continuing with a long instrumental coda to take it to full 12″ length. The mix here was much more interesting with a expanded rhythmic buildup that showcased the various elements until it developed a head of steam sufficient for the vocals to begin. An effective “old school” 12″ mix methodology that has held Visage in good stead as they have excelled at “extended versions.” Strange bites the lyric more convincingly here in the new version. I also enjoyed how the motorcycle revving samples were strongly de-emphasized here. I had felt that they were overused in the original version.
Another definitive mix was what they did with “Tar” on this CD. “Tar” was never a favorite Visage single, but the compelling dub deconstruction given a spin here managed to make the song much more interesting to these ears. This was especially interesting, since there was never an extended version of any kind for this song. The lurching, dubbed out buildup gradually coalesces into the full-bore song until two minutes in, we’ve been taken to a very different place from the abstract intro. The song continued apace for about 90 seconds, then it all began to break down again into heavy dub for another nearly three minutes.
Then there’s “Frequency 7 [the dance version].” It was yet another overworked stab of squelchtronica. I never had much time for the original dance mix from 1981, and this one is simply more of the same, yet different. At 3:30 I am looking at where my watch would be, if I had one. Unfortunately, there’s another 90 seconds of slamming beats and lurching synths. And after hearing this many times of late, I began to think that wasn’t this something I had heard before? Yes. On the “Frequency 7” CD-R back in 2013 that was the first fruit of the new Visage to reach these ears.
The only difference was that the version on the CD-R was brickwalled within an inch of its life. If there’s anything more tedious, it’s this song stripped of what scant subtlety it may have had and cranked up to eleven. It did not sound quite so loud on “The Wild Life,” and here’s the simple reason why:
The volume has been decreased by several db, but the same lack of dynamic range applies to the actual sound. It’s just quieter.
Then the CD has a couple of ringers to fill it out. Extended versions familiar to anyone who had bought the CD singles from “Hearts + Minds.” “Shameless Fashion” was the first new Visage single since “Beat Boy” and I would have added it on the standard “Wild Life” CD but at least it’s on the extended version disc. Hearing this mix in 2013 was the first evidence that we’d get of Visage knowing how to really give their fans an old school extended remix. The extended version of “Hidden Sign” was an effective way of taking the song out of its almost country sounding vibe into something a little more electropop.
Nestled in between these known quantities was one of the pulls for this CD, above and beyond all of the new versions contained here. It was a 7:20 extended remix of “On We Go” from the “Hearts + Knives” album. It’s great hearing an effective deep cut on an album with six singles issued from it get the extended remix treatment. This moody song would never trouble a dance floor, but it’s a great song all the same. Back when Visage was rousing itself from cold storage, Martin Rushent, who gave Visage a leg up in 1979, suggested writing a slow one like “I Am The Law” from “Dare” and the band gamely took the bait. The methodical nature of the song plays out even more strongly with the extra three minutes added. It is now possible for the cognoscenti to make a playlist featuring eight of its ten songs in expansive 12″ mixes. [memo to self]
The new extended versions on this volume were completely unexpected by me up front, yet the high degree of success that the Visage team had in making these new 12″ versions was yet another expression of the assured success that the band had for the duration of their return to the recording studios in the final phase of the band. Some fans have groused about the re-recordings, but with the exception of “Frequency 7 [the dance version],” everything here runs the gamut from great to amazing, with three tracks in particular [“Mind of A Toy,” “The Damned Don’t Cry,” and “Pleasure Boys”] being absolutely definitive versions that have displaced the original 12″ mixes in my estimation. The “Tar” extended dub managed to even surpass the original 7″mix, since there was never a remix until now. Since this band has dispersed int he wake of Steve Strange’s death in 2015, the work here was an unexpected gift to this fan. I’d love to hear more of this band, but we’ll look at the best way to do that tomorrow.
Next: …Listen To The Band
This sounds intriguing. Is it a cd or cd-r? I tend not to go for modern remix versions but if it adds to the original then why not. Spoons did something similar with Nova Heart and it was great.
Jordan – Only the download edition [disc 2] was a CD-R in this series. The other six full CDs can all be purchased individually if you like. I forgot to look during lunch for Soundcloud samples to embed [since corrected].
Jordan – So the “Nova Heart” 30th Anniversary EP is a keeper, eh? I have it on the Infinite Want List, for what it’s worth. Surely that was the finest single to issue from Canada? I recall the dismissive two sentence review of “Arias + Symphonies” in Trouser Press’s “Hit and Run;” insult to injury. Philistines!!
The Wild Life Collection proves that not every multi cd artist retrospective need be as base as a money grab. This is a collection curated with love and affection for the music and the makers.
I’m with you Monk, Disc 3 is the surprising star of the collection.
The Pleasure Boys Extended Version is a masterpiece of Synth-Pop. It exists in the heady air that amazing songs like Heaven 17’s Penthouse And Pavement and Crushed By The Wheels Of Industry float. One of the greatest things that ever happened to synth-pop is the introduction of funky bass and guitar. The strict walls of clinical synth music were breached and synth music found its soul.
But I digress…The new Extended Version of Tar swings like it’s hanging from the rafters of The Blitz or Billy’s at the turn of the 80s.
And finally, as amazing and exciting as Pleasures Boys is here, the real star of the Extended Versions disc is On We Go. The longer I have listened to Hearts + Knives since it’s release On We Go has become one of the songs I most associate with Visage Mk. 3. You can here the influence of the late great Martin Rushent in it’s pace and production. It’s the song on H+K that most successfully bridges the old with the new. Here the Extended Version treats the listener to the fullest expression of the song’s impact. It is both musically and lyrically melancholy. The fact that the brief lyrical content is sung by Steve and the band in unison shows the strength and conviction they had in making this revitalized Visage work.
As a CV, this Extended Versions disc is as good as it gets for John Bryan and Sare Havilcek. If they aren’t considered or hired to work with more artists after this, then it is only to the detriment of those artists who make the error of not employing their considerable skills.
Echorich – Well, you nailed that one to the wall. The talent in this band was considerable. I would have loved the band continuing under a new name cranking out instrumentals but no one asked me. At the very least Bryan and Havileck have proven their mettle.