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Nearly 30 years after its last record, new wave/new romantic pioneer Visage returns to the racks with a brand-new album. Led, as always, by flamboyant singer Steve Strange, the band includes other notables from its era: late-period Visage member Steve Barnacle rejoins the ranks, which also include guitarist Robin Simon, formerly of Ultravox and Magazine, and the record receives keyboard and compositional assists from former Simple Minds ivory-tickler Mick MacNeil and a spot of writing from Magazine’s Dave Formula. Singer Lauren Duvall joins Strange on the front line, giving some songs a bit of a Human League feel. Hearts and Knives revels in its old-school synth pop feel, recalling the days when guitars and a real drumkit held hands with keyboard bass and programmed electronics. Not to mention melodies, the emphasis on which really sets Visage apart not only from today’s rhythm-happy electro-rockers but even a lot of the band’s contemporaries. Ultimately, the synthesizers simply amount to the colors used to paint the design – the arty “Lost in Static,” brooding “On We Go” and catchy “Never Enough,” “She’s Electric (Coming Around)” and “Shameless Fashion” would be strong pop tunes if played on kazoos and autoharps.
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