A welcome missive from the days when pop was savage and sweet
How wonderfully odd Altered Images sound now. Like spiky grains of sugar falling on an oil slick from a great height while onlooking puffins applaud. I’m alarmed to find that, of five encyclopaedias of rock at hand, only two mention them, whereas four mention Alien Sex Fiend. Can this be right and just? It cannot. The Glaswegian gigglers accidentally mastered pop, which is the only cool way to master it.
Furthermore, they did so in two successive, entirely contrasting ways. At the start of the ’80s they emerged as indie/Peel darlings, openly imitating Siouxsie & The Banshees. The small and lovely Clare Grogan, squealing like Minnie Mouse, made Tatu look like Hinge & Bracket. Produced initially by Steve Severin, they sounded like The Banshees Junior, and sang of “Dead Pop Stars”. This track remains wickedly, spookily prescient and acidic, lampooning the proverbial 15 minutes before they were halfway through their first. Then came hits, with Martin Rushent proving he wasn’t always a grumpy git. “Happy Birthday” and “I Could Be Happy” are new wave nursery rhymes whose hooks blow your candles out every time. The Happy Birthday album was followed by Pinky Blue, more of the same only less rapturously received by fickle critics.
So A.I., with appropriate intelligence, went mainstream. Punk princess Grogan was restyled as Holly Golightly and ’83’s Bite album married slick Nile Rodgers/Bernard Edwards disco grooves with Blondie’s pop nous. A sophisticated, underappreciated masterpiece, this, produced by?does it get any better??Mike Chapman and Tony Visconti. It boasted four stone classics in “Don’t Talk To Me About Love”, “Love To Stay”, “Change Of Heart” and the foxy-as-fuck “Bring Me Closer”.
They’re all shimmering splendidly here, plus two underwhelming new songs and sleevenotes from La Grogan. Altered Images sold five million records and made the world a brighter place. Bounce Tiggerishly out of your front door right now and make it five million and one.