Altered Images: Bite (Epic — import LP)

NEITHER THE prosaic nor the lexicon of love, love is still the emotion Clare Grogan is taking a bite out of. A smooth profuse camouflage of mood and desire swept in musical sensuality. And though a long-time fan (i.e. me) plays spot-the-guise with Altered Images earlier heritage, Bite is essentially a new Clare throwing away those foolish things, the ones that peaked on the excellent second LP Pinky Blue.

What Clare used to epitomize was youth as an innocent escapade. She didn’t fall in love, she had a crush: she wasn’t a tough gal rocker or a sultry wench, she was the girl next door when you were in fifth grade. But life is too hard to accept a band that doesn’t want to abuse its audience in one way or another, so though she was merely sticking her tongue out at us, most people figured it was really deep in her cheek.

I spoke with Clare a year ago and believed her thoroughly sincere whilst putting a spanner in the works with comments like, “But I am maturing. I can see it happening already.” Bite is hopefully not a “mature” LP. Lust is too glandular to be rational, and the woman who sings “I told you I want you’ with a feline purr isn’t inviting you for cups of tea. The shock glamour of the LP’s cover gives the promise, in a silky black dress with gloves reaching her elbows and jewels on her wrist. It is obviously Clare, but what a seductive Clare, what a change in the girl. The music delivers the promise, pop as a sweeping-out of the cobwebs, as beauty and transience, as pure perfect uplift. It’s hot like a large Courvoisier at 5am on a winter morning, taking your breath away and leaving you a little dizzy. Like Midnight Love and Love is the Place it is perfect make-out music.

What you get is eight songs. Four produced by the ubiquitous Mike Chapman, four produced by the newly resurrected (after the Bowie glory years) Tony Visconti. It proves that Altered Images were never really Martin Rushent’s production puppets. Both men gave their tracks a distinctive flavor but neither overwhelms Clare. Chapman finds the song in the mood, the lilting, titling melody and calypsoed bongos give ‘Love to Stay’ a stealthy contentment with a coda comparable to Mantovani. Better still is ‘Thinking About You’, a thrilling and sensual seduction love as provocative positiveness, late night in a smoky bar. Phoebe Legere should cover it. Visconti finds the mood in the song, the brittle Donna Summer in the city cum Debbie H on ‘Bring Me Closer’. ‘Another Lost Look”s re-thinking of ‘Forgotten’.

Clare has managed to grow up (a trick that has stymied many a performer) for the same reason Madness did — she’s being honest about it. Sure, she’s toughened up her cheeky girl image, yet she has remained constant to what was best in earlier Altered Images. The backbone of all three LPs is the same — tenderness, grace, fun, and oddly enough, humility. Which is why Bite is possibly the closest we’ll get to a perfect album in 1983.

© Iman LababediThe East Village Eye, August 1983

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