PUBLISHED IN SIDE-LINE MAGAZINE

Review of "Fad Gadget by Frank Tovey- A Retrospective In Sound And Vision (2dvd/dcd Mute)"

 

Overlooked by the mainstream, though adored by his worldwide legion of fans, FG a.k.a Frank Tovey was and still remains one of the most highly regarded and influential electronic artists of our time. On April 3rd 2002, the devastating news was announced that Frank Tovey aka Fad Gadget had suddenly passed away. Even more tragic was that Fad Gadget was on the brink of a much anticipated career revival, having just finished touring with Depeche Mode and planning to work on new material and to tour the U.S. and Japan. Mute records has now immortalized FG in this celebratory release "FAD GADGET by Frank Tovey: A Retrospective In Sound And Vision," a deluxe box set featuring 2 audio cds and 2 dvds.

 

The dvd collection contains roughly 5 hours of material: "Fad Gadget by Frank Tovey documentary," and "Grand Union, A Short Film" television appearances and music video promos, and live concert performances from NYC Mudd Club in 1981, Hotel Suburbia in 1983, Hacienda in 1984 then flashes forward to 2001 when Fad returned the favor to Depeche Mode as the supporting act on their Exciter tour, and finishes with one of Fad's last performance at The Garage in 2002. The documentary which fans will most likely want to watch first, is a sincere tribute of interviews peppered with snippets of live material. The cast of FG's friends and counterparts relive memories of FG and describe England's post punk atmosphere begining at the end of the 70s and how it evolved into noisy electronic pop music of the 80s.

 

Notable interviews with Daniel Miller, the founder of Mute records, Dave Gahan and Martin Gore of Depeche Mode, legendary photographer Anton Corbijn, former bandmates, friends, journalists and others who were greatly inspired by the man's genius. "I don't use a synthesizer for fashion, I use it for function," claimed a new wave dressed Tovey to a music journalist in 1983. In fact, it's impossible not to notice how his style influenced many post punker's uniforms with the many great '80s looks sported by Tovey throughout all of the dvds. The documentary is followed by "Grand Union A Short Film," which, just as described, is a short film about Frank Tovey and the Pyros "Grand Union" album that references the Grand Union Canal System in the East End of London where Tovey had lived as a child.

 

Also included are several T.V. performances and music videos of some of the most popular FG songs such as "Collapsing New People" with the classic footage of Tovey covering himself in tar and feathers, "Luxury," a very '80s style half performance/half video and "Ricky's Hand," shot as a short film directed by Alex Proyas. The live dvd begins with the performance of "Coitus Interruptus" at the Mudd Club in NYC 1981, and is the earliest live footage in the collection. Tovey climbs rafters, flails himself across the stage, hangs from a beam, and beats his body with his fist while grunting into the mic. Next it's 1983 at the Hotel Suburbia, where during the song "Lady Shave" Tovey's infamous personal hair removal was captured on film. Tovey puts shaving cream over his body and plucks and pulls hair from the most private of areas and flings it into the unsuspecting audience. During "Back to Nature" Tovey invites his fans onstage where he is mobbed by crazy new wave dancers, some with bright red socks and shoes! At Tony Wilson's legendary club, The acienda, Tovey is in his element, doing crazy backwards flips into the audience and rides the crowd. One of the high points of Tovey's career was supporting Depeche Mode in 2001 during the European Exciter tour. FG appears larger than life on a giant stage in a white lab coat, the FG logo spinning behind him. It was a much deserved compliment from the band who once opened for him in the early 80s.

 

The Garage performance from 2002 was one of the last FG perfomances played to a small and enthusiastic crowd. Fad is back! The songs are harder, more raw and primal with guitar muscle added to pre-recorded keyboard sequences. Even after viewing the 2 lengthy dvd�s, there are still 2 audio discs for your listening pleasure. cd #1 opens with four FG songs that are lso available on the last three FG discs, "Incontinent," "Under the Flag," and "Gag." The majority of the material is from Tovey's solo career where enters his Dylanesque phase backed by the Irish band the Pyros. This is Tovey's folksy, everyman style songs like "The Liberty Tree" and "Cities of the Plain," a cover of "Sam Hall," collaborations between Frank and Boyd Rice called "Easy Listening Ex. 2," and one with MK Ultra called "Immobilise," and the previously unreleased tracks "A Place with The Pigs" and "Sleeper." cd #2 contains 5 demo tracks which have never seen the light of day until now. Noisy and raw versions of "State Of The Nation" "Coitus Interuptus" "The Box" "Salt Lake City Sunday" and the crown jewel of the whole collection, "Back To Nature" which was the actual demo version that Tovey had sent to Daniel Miller of Mute Records, becoming the very first Mute release.

 

Also included are 4 completed versions of the same demos, and the top 5 FG songs as chosen by the fans on Mute's website, with "Back To Nature" being the Number one fan favourite. The disc closes with "Soroguai," a tribute song by Temple X, Tovey's support band for the 2001-2002 tour. To make it ruly representative of his life's work, it would have been incredible had it included some of the instrumental tracks from "Incontintent" and "Fireside Favourites." Some may find the inclusion of many versions of the same certain tracks to be slightly repetitious after viewing this 5+ hour epic. However fans would probably not complain had they extended it a few hours longer! This retrospective tribute truly captures the zeitgeist of the post punk and new wave era and the inspiring musical life and personality of the legendary Frank Tovey. Hail and Farewell, King of the Flies.(CH:9)CH.

© 2014 by Jennifer Kachikian @ designerinchicago.com