Altered Images: Bring Me Closer – UK – 12″ 
- Bring Me Closer [extended version]
- Surprise Me
1983 brought with it many changes as the New Wave/Post-Punk and even New Pop trends of 1981 began to mutate in an increasingly conservative pop marketplace. We had heard [and loved] the last Altered Images single, the dip into the Giorgio Moroder sound that was “Don’t Talk To Me About Love.” As produced by Mike Chapman, the record also crossed into Blondie “Heart Of Glass” territory and with the same producer at the helm. I remember being at either a Peaches Colonial Drive or Record City Colonial Drive when the “Bring Me Closer” single manifested.
We picked it up and were struck by the “New Look” sophisticated, 1983 model, glammed out Clare Grogan on the sleeve. We also noticed that production this time was not by Mike Chapman but by the stalwart Tony Visconti! Unusual given that their last album, “Pinky Blue” had been at the hands of Martin Rushent. Then a producer of “the moment” following his Human League triumphs. I wonder what the famed Bowie producer would bring to the table this time?
The extended A-side was lush, string and conga-driven widescreen disco, ala Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra! With wah-wah rhythm guitar for miles. Clare was singing but she was almost swamped by the high powered backing vocalists that I had a real problem with in the mix. Ms. Grogan’s was a…distinctive voice. Her high, chirpy vocals were a love/hate thing with the public, but enough loved the band to give them a run of top 20 hits in the UK. I felt here that Mr. Visconti was hedging his bets and not letting Grogan be Grogan.
The velvety production was nothing I would have expected from the group, but was not off putting in itself. It sounded like an army of steely-eyed, flat-bodied professionals doing that they did best on the additional keyboards, BVs, strings, and saxophone [Andy Hamilton of “Rio” fame!]. The 12″ mix had lots of dropouts where different aspects of the mix got the spotlight for a few bars. Rhythm guitar. Congas. The best aspect of the song to me were its lyrics. The refrain below was sung with a smooth, creamy phrasing.
“Something that you do to me fills me with unease” – Bring Me Closer
So much so, that the brain of this listener did a double take once it began processing the lyrical content of this whipped cream napoleon of a song. It was that ironic juxtaposition of happy music with contrary lyric that I had reacted to on their last album [see: “I Could Be Happy”] that had given me the frissons of pleasure that I would now look to this band for going forward. But the music here was neither happy, nor sad; merely lush, so that perhaps represented a variation on their theme.
The B-side was also produced by Visconti but “Surprise Me” was a real throwback to the ebullient sound of “Pinky Blue,” albeit produced by a very different hand at the boards. If anything, I liked his production better than Rushent’s. The latter tended to emphasize the sugar in the arrangement, and I felt that “Surprise Me” was more “nutritionally balanced” than the sound that Rushent had brought to the band.
So this single represented new branches in the Altered Images tree, for sure, but alas; it failed to click with the British public. “Don’t Talk To Me About Love” made # 7 [UK] but “Bring Me Closer” got as high as #29 [UK]. The next two singles continued the downward trajectory with “Change of Heart” barely hitting the Top 100 [#83 UK] and that was that! Altered Images were finished. I considered it a brutal and premature end for the band. Looking back it all seemed so cutthroat, but then again, it was the Thatcher era. I suppose the early 80s was the last time where a band could develop [even wildly] over the course of three, very different albums. In that respect, Altered Images were in good company with the likes of fellow New Pop band ABC who certainly matched Altered Images penchant for an admirably wide stylistic profile.
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