[…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