Rhythm & Views

Fad Gadget

Every so often, some band no one's really ever heard of suddenly emerges from the vaults of some strange unknown land, touting themselves as "one of the first bands ever" to do such and such. Recently released from the depths of Mute Records in the United Kingdom is a two-CD, 30-song Best Of release from Fad Gadget, a band that pioneered the sounds of Depeche Mode and Gary Numan and the whole scary-man-with-a-synth schtick before Trent Reznor even thought about shooting creepy videos with dead animals. Heck, Fad Gadget came before MTV, almost before TV, even. But not before Kraftwerk.

Fad Gadget, aka Frank Tovey, was formed in the late 1970s, back when New Wave really was new. Fad Gadget used to play shows with the likes of Siouxie and the Banshees, but somehow or other, Fad Gadget got lost along the way. Fad Gadget seem to be so cutting edge and yet so intricately woven into the music of their time that they just sort of missed the fame boat, and hence, you won't find any Fad Gadget songs being requested on the lunchtime '80s radio show.

Which is too bad, because their music reverberates with a certain depth that bands like Soft Cell and the Human League could never pull off without seeming overly dramatic. Fad Gadget can create songs with titles like "Lady Shave" and "Love Parasite" and "One Man's Meat" and it's anything but cheesy; it's frighteningly cool. The synthesizers add just enough extra noise without becoming the focal point of the song, and Tovey's vocals, while extremely Gary Numan-esque, are delivered with the kind of ironic intensity that can only be a product of Britain in the early '80s. "Love Parasite" has a near-disco pulsing, fuzzy synth beat that'll bring out the closet dancing Goth in everyone; "Fireside Favourite" is silly; it seems like it should be a waltz but it's not. Listen to the stomping bass line in "Collapsing New People" and think about this: in 1983, Tovey broke both his legs onstage on tour in Europe. And you thought you were punk rock.

Fad Gadget lasted from 1979 through 1984, and The Best of Fad Gadget was originally released in 1986, but this re-release includes a second CD with remixes with names like "Toasted Crumpet Mix" and "Foot Binding Trot Mix," as well as other songs not on the original album. This is the first U.S. compact disc release of Fad Gadget music. Partake in the delight that is the dark depths of Fad Gadget's array of noise, melody and rhythm. It's okay to relive the '80s every now and then, especially the stuff you missed out on the first time around.

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