Monday, July 15, 2013

New Wave for the New Week #165

The classic era of New Wave, circa 1978 - 1981, left behind several eccentric curios - bizarre one-shot bands that rode the wave briefly and wiped out hard, never to be heard from again, or eclectic experimenters who thrived on trying something beyond the traditional radio-friendly three and half minute pop song.  One band fit both descriptions during the New Wave heyday, and then managed to extend their lifespan longer than anyone thought probable by completely redefining themselves, at least finding dance club success if not chart fame and radio airplay.

When they began in 1978, the band Fàshiön (originally fully named Fàshiön Music on their first few singles) sounded like no one who had come before them - or after, for that matter.  They created a trippy, out-of-phase, almost dreamlike drone from shards of Reggae, Psychedelia, and Punk.  With frontman Luke Sky's bizarre vocal swoops tugging the melodies along, their early records at times sounded akin to Brian Eno-era Roxy Music played at the wrong speed on warped vinyl, but they remain fascinating artifacts of the era. "Steady Eddie Steady" and "Citinite" are the best examples of these early oddities, which caught the ear of Miles Copeland who quickly snapped them up for his fledgling I.R.S. Records label.

It was for I.R.S. that Fàshiön recorded their debut EP, containing my pick as their finest vinyl moment, the raucous "Sodium Pentathol Negative," which was also chosen as the band's representative cut on the essential I.R.S.'s Greatest Hits Vols. II & III compilation.  That it wasn't included on their first proper LP, 1979's Product Perfect, only goes to show how much solid material the band was pumping out. Indeed, only "Citinite" made the cut from the first several singles.  It's a truly wonderful album, highlighted by the sprawling, somewhat unsettling "Bike Boys."  Well worth seeking out.

Shortly thereafter, Sky left the band, and Fàshiön might very well have disappeared into the mists of time. Remaining band members John Mulligan (bass and synths), Dik Davis (drums), and Al James (guitar) had other ideas, however.  They brought in a new vocalist, and in 1982 suddenly bobbed back up to the surface with a new album, Fabrique (reissued many years later on CD as The Height of Fashion).  Old fans had little to celebrate, sadly, as this record bears little to no resemblance to anything done under the Fàshiön name before.  This was slick, polished New Romantic/pseudo-soul pop music, an obvious attempt to latch onto the "sound of the moment." While they scored some club hits ("You Only Left Your Picture," "Streetplayer"), they didn't find the commercial success they had hoped for.  A further reshuffling and another change in vocalists occurred, and they tried one more time. 1984's Twilight Of Idols took unapologetic aim at the dance floors, and while it is certainly danceable, it's unfortunately also generic and forgettable. 

For this week's NW4NW entry, we go back to Fàshiön's early material and remember good band they were at the start, even if they turned out to be a chameleonic curio by the end. Two audio-only clips are presented: first up, their excellent debut, "Steady Eddie Steady," and then the fantastic "Sodium Pentathol Negative." Enjoy!

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  1. I can see why Miles Copeland would pick Fashion up. They sound a little like early Police.

  2. I can hear that a little bit, especially in "Steady Eddie Steady." Good call!