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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fad Gadget - Under The Flag / Singles

Name: Fad Gadget/Frank Tovey
Album: Under the Flag* Singles^
Year: 1982*, 1987^
Style: Gothic, Electro-New Wave
Similar Bands: Yaz, Depeche Mode, OMD, Madness (a little)
"One Word" Review: Monotonous-kill-thyself-wave
Based Out Of: Leeds, England
Label: Stumm8*, Mute Records*^, Sire^ 

Under The Flag - Cover, Insert & Record

Under The Flag - Back & Insert
Fad Gadget Singles - Cover, Insert & Record
Fad Gadget Singles - Back & Insert

Under The Flag (1982)
  1. Under the Flag I 3:09
  2. Scapegoat 2:53
  3. Love Parasite 5:29
  4. Plainsong 3:53
  5. Wheels Of Fortune 4:55 /
  6. Live On The Line IV 3:57
  7. The Sheep Look Up 3:37
  8. Cipher 5:39
  9. For Whom The Bell Tolls 5:16
  10. Under The Flag II 2:53
Fad Gadget Singles (1985)
  1. Back To Nature 5:45
  2. The Box 4:14
  3. Ricky's Hand 4:05
  4. Fireside Favourite 4:12
  5. Lady Shave 5:44 /
  6. Saturday Night Special 4:29
  7. King Of the Flies 3:04
  8. Life On The Line 3:52
  9. For Whom The Bell Tolls 3:31
  10. I Discover Love 3:48
  11. Collapsing New People 4:15
Album Rating (1-10):

Members & Other Bands:
Frank Tovey - Lead Vocal, Computer and Synthesizers, Producer*^ Recording^
David Simmons Grand Piano, Synthesizers*^ Tuned Bottles^
Nicholas Cash - Vibraphone, Timpani, Hand-Held Percussion, Drums*
Alison Moyet - Chorus, Sax* (Yaz)
Barbara (BJ) Frost - Chorus*^ Photography^
Jill Tipping - Chorus, Typography*^
Yvette Anna - Chorus*
Andrew Kay - Chorus* Design & Typographer^
Anne Clift - Chorus*^
John Fryer - Chorus, Engineer, Produced*^ Recording^
Patricia Bakker - Dutch Nursery Rhyme*
Anton Corbijn - Art & Photography*^
Daniel Miller - Producer, Synthesizers, Recording, Drum Machines^
Eric Radcliff - Producer, Engineer, Bass, Banjo, Recording^
Gareth Jones - Producer, Engineer, Tonemeister^
BJ Frost - Choir Girl Effect^
Pete Balmer - Bass^
Joni Sackett - Vocals^
David Rogers - Double Bass, Bass Synth, Slide Guitar^
Rowland S Howard - Guitar^
Daryl Williams - Brass^
Simmon Gardner - Brass^
Eddie Carnihan - Brass^
Paul White - Sleeve Design^
Simone Grant - Design & Typographer^
Neil Waving - Photography^
Max Kisman - Photography^
George Bekker - Photography^

Unknown-ness: Never heard of these guys, but just from the stark, bleak cover, and the albums that these were mixed in with at the thrift store, I would have to imagine they are like depressing, post-punk new wave, along the lines of (gulp) Depeche Mode or Siouxie Sioux. Under the Flag makes me think of the minimal art work of, say Wire, and the Singles record makes me thing of Iggy Pop. But the clown on the back makes me think that there may be some interesting evil carnival music tones mixed into these songs. But as far as being influential or groundbreaking, I can’t say I’ve ever heard of Frank Tovey or the band…should I have?

Album Review: “Under the Flag I” is a dark, depressing song, with the basic tempo kept in time by the synthesized drum beat that sound a bit like a helicopter. The lyrics are sang in a depressed monotone. “Scapegoat” follows with two overlapping synth sounds, mixing Yaz and OMD. The lyrics are again sung with the same depressed monotone, which makes me think about Depeche Mode (it is Mute Records, after all), but they vocals are not as close to as annoying. The secondary, more upbeat synth sound is a metallic pinball effect. The supporting vocals, a female choir adds depth and a bit of hopefulness to the song. “Love Parasite” sounds like the background music for a fast-paced Atari game. Then the deeper bass synth is added to the fore-front, and adds to the Atari theme. This is less than 8-bit repetitive action! The title lyrics are repeated over and over, in a dismal, shoot-me-so-that-it-will-all-be-over way. There are other odd effects (good effects) that flesh the song out well longer than it needs to be. “Plainsong” begins with some reverberating distorted vocals. Minimal instrumentation and a choir of vocals support this aptly named plain song, which is repeated over and over; as is the verse at the end of the song. “Wheels Of Fortune” picks up the pace with an energetic drum beat and piano. There is more melody and confidence behind the vocals here, and even a sax effect. It has a little Roxy Music / Bryan Ferry feel to it (at least, compared the little I know about them).

“Live On The Line IV” starts side two with a prog style synth sound and more of the quiet monotone vocals. This is very sparse in musical depth, and has a hollow, haunting sound because of it. It actually sounds a little like Madness’s later stuff. “The Sheep Look Up” begins with a piano and vocals. It is kind of like a show tune, just in a gloomy, empty way. I could see an avant-garde musical dance interpretation performed to this song. “Cipher” has a slow start, it creeks into existence with a drum heart beat, deep bass sounds and mystical chimes. Actually it is not a start at all, it lasts for 3 minutes before the quiet Jarvis Cocker style vocals are added. But the vocals don’t change the tone or direction of the song at all. “For Whom The Bell Tolls” follows it up with an upbeat echoey gothic dance beat. There is more energy behind the vocals here, but they are quite often fall into the realm of monotonous. The song ends with a few tribal sounding vocal outbursts, and synthesized laser sounds. “Under The Flag II” revisits the first song on the album, with dialogue overlaid, and more chanting. The same rhythmic beat is there, it is just mixed up with extra effects and vocals, which make it a thicker, more complex song that the version I.

Because this is a greatest hits album, the cohesive nature of the songs will not really exist. But that is nothing really threatening to how I review, since I break it down song by song. “Back To Nature” continues the vocal style that is familiar to the full length. There is the same darkness and disparity to the music as it feels sharp and jarring in its tone. The song winds down with some electric tones played at what seems random. “The Box” starts with a liquid, vibrating bass sound. The vocals are more chanting and energetic than usual. But the song is still not very deep in musical structure. “Ricky's Hand” is a fun electronic, nearly dancy song full of industrial effects and computer samples. It sometimes feels like a Nintendo video game, of which, I was always a fan of Mega Man for music and play. “Fireside Favourite” is actually a fun, twisted carnival romp. If only more of the material was like this! It has a fun bass and drum kit beat, and the synthesized squeaky key sound makes me also think of Sonic the Hedgehog. It is still gloomy, but it is a rich gloom, hazed over with whisky and balloons. “Lady Shave” is back to the more German electro industrial music style. There is an interesting odd computer-synth sound effect that is kinda evil carnivally, and redeems the otherwise starkly depressing song. The lyrics, angrily whisper-shouted “shave it!” are a little off-putting, too; especially at the very end where they repeat without end in a fade out.

The second side of this compilation features two songs from the “Under the Flag” album, so I have omitted reviewing them again. They occur midway through the side, so I will review the songs as if they were not there at all. “Saturday Night Special” is another along the line of “Fireside Favorite” where it feels like the theme song to a shady traveling carnival. The tinkling piano mixed with the oompa-polka bass completes the dingy vision. The ending repetition of male and female vocals layered upon each other extends the song for a bit long. “King Of the Flies” breaks all form and puts out a full on post-punk electro dance song. This one is really good, kinda disco in the bass and piano delivery. But all the weird creepy effects are present, just wrapped neater and tighter in a complete musical package. “I Discover Love” is like a sneaky detective song, mostly parallel to Madness in their most sinister. The song is very good too, with brass sections, and a jazzy bass rhythm. Even the backing vocals and piano make me think of Madness. “Collapsing New People” brings together the industrial rhythm and latter period xylophone and a bit of brass effects. It is much more upbeat than the earlier stuff. Even in the vocals, there is an upbeat energy that was not present before. Like there is something to live for, for the first time.

Over all, the singles collection reveals a stark change of style and mood from the early years through to the end of the collection of 1985. I am very impressed with the later years, and I’d be interested to hear more of the album that features “I Discover Love” and “King of the Flies.” Thems good songs.

Stand Out Tracks:

1 comment:

  1. I don't necessarily blame you for not having heard of Tovey (God rest his soul,) but he was actually fairly influential in the industrial scene. He was one of those guys who everyone looked up to and was inspired by, but he himself never broke out of his little corner of the world.