Altered Images – Mascara Streakz (Album Review)

One of the pioneers and forerunners of female-fronted ’80s New Wave / Indie/Twee Pop, Altered Images catapulted to ubiquity as early as 1981, when it released its debut record, Happy Birthday, whose infectious title-track became an anthem of the decade’s Alternative youth. Two albums more were issued–the following year’s Pinky Blue and 1983’s Bite. However, despite relative success courtesy of a number of U.K. Top 40 hit singles that included “I Could Be Happy” and “Don’t Talk to Me about Love,” the Glasgow-hailing Scottish band that was formed in 1979, split up. The members embarked on various individual endeavors but have remained under the commercial radar.

Now, nearly 40 years after its breakup, Altered Images returns with a new album in tow. Currently consisting of Clare Grogan (vocals), Stephen Lironi (various instruments), and Johnny McElhone (bass) with Robert Hodgens (of The Bluebells) and Bernard Butler (formerly of Suede), the recharged group unleashes its brand new album on Friday, August 26, 2022, via Cooking Vinyl Records.

Titled Mascara Streakz, Altered Images’ latest effort is a 12-track record full of Electropop stompers that rather sing of life’s ups and downs and the heartbreakers behind the glamor. In spite of this lyrical seriocity, the songs are shiny and shimmery enough to illuminate the ever glittery New Wave dance floor.

Mascara Streakz opens with the flickering discoteque pop of the title-track. “Red Startles the Sky ” then slides its funky beats thereafter. The Donna Summer-reminiscent, synth bass-driven plot then thickens with “Colour of My Dreams.” Following next is the Butler-penned “Glitter Ball,” which sparkles with its inevitable jangly guitar lines.

Altered Images then slows down the mood with the heartrending sway of “Your Life Is Mine.” And then there is “Home,” in which Grogan’s sultry voice shines through, taking the listener to a memory trip down the countryside, exuding echoes of Blue Zoo’s “Somewhere in the World There’s a Cowboy Smiling.”

“Beautiful Thing” and “Changing My Luck” are back to the ’80s heyday of New Wave – starry-eyed, melodic, bittersweet, sun-vibed. “Lost of Love” is a slight change of style – with Trip-Hop sensibilities, in league with Portishead (“Glory Box”), Garbage (“Stupid Girl”), and Massive Attack (“Teardrop:). “Double Reflection” is definitely full-on Synthpop, reminding the initiated of Erasure, Pet Shop Boys, and Yazoo. After the Reggae-glazed “The Flame,” Altered Images finally wraps up its sonic present aptly with the relaxing and dreamy ‘Sleep.”

Mascara Streakz is both retrospective and contemporary, for both the old New Wavers and the current generation’s hipsters. And Grogan, with her sonic comrades, still carries with pride and class the edge and charm that launched a great Spandau Ballet ballad 39 years ago. For this, Cryptic Rock gives Mascara Streakz 4 out of 5 stars.

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ALfie vera mellaAuthor posts

Born in 1971, in Metro Manila, Philippines, aLfie vera mella is a healthcare worker, singer/songwriter, and editor/writer. He was the frontman of the ’90s-peaking Philippine Alternative Rock / New Wave band Half Life Half Death, which released a full-length album and several singles on Viva Records. aLfie worked at Diwa Scholastic Press as an editor/writer of academic textbooks and supplementary magazines, focusing on Science & Technology and English Grammar & Literature. In 2003, aLfie migrated to Canada; he has since been living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He works full-time at a healthcare institution, while serving as the associate contributing editor of Filipino Journal—a local community newspaper in Winnipeg—tackling Literature, Languages, Cultures, Lifestyles, and Music. aLfie has been a music journalist since the mid-’90s for various print magazines as well as websites. He started writing album reviews for Cryptic Rock in 2015. In 2016, aLfie published Part One (Literature & Languages and Their Cultural Significance) of his Essay Series, Can You Hear the Sound of a Falling Leaf?; in 2021, his first book of poetry, Pag-íhip sa Dáhon ng Kahápon [Blowing Leaves of Yesterday]. In his spare time, he enjoys reading books and listening to music. aLfie is a dedicated father to his now 13-year-old son, Evawwen; and a loving husband to Kathryn Mella, who herself moonlights also as a writer aside from holding a degree in Bachelor of Arts, Major in Sociology.

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