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.

Like the in-depth, diverse coverage of Cryptic Rock? Help us in support to keep the magazine going strong for years to come with a small donation.

No comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *