Altered Images: The Altered State Of Pop Art

Altered Images: Hammersmith Palais, London

HAVING BEGUN my explanation of the vitalizing anti-crisis post-rock pre-packaged HIGHLY USEFUL teented-pop bubble and trouble, may I present my next trick of the light: ALTERED IMAGES, a teenybop group, to invite unfortunate comparisons, a punk group, to demand some slightly better comparisons, and above it all A VERY MODERN GROUP.

Having used Haircut 100 to begin a necessary illumination of the ways certain new pop groups are concerned [only] with representing the superb frenzy of life and anticipating the new lies of logic – the review was greeted with universal acclaim by everyone except those very ill people I mentioned, those people who have too much grey pride to even try swallowing the sweet pill of Altered Images – I come to Altered Images, with most of the cares in the world, knowing that I could write even more words about Altered Images, the belief and the disbelief, than I did about Haircut 100; will I be allowed to?

Having the desire to lecture feverishly about the Images’ dynamic suggestion of new meanings and new relations, but knowing that most people don’t want to think twice, I force myself to be brief. Brief, bold, secret but coherent, joyous and inexpressibly apprehensive…just like an Altered Images song, which trembles and then tumbles somewhere between knowing the facts of life and discovering one of the meanings of life.

Altered Images sold out Hammersmith Palais just a few months after they played at West Hampstead Moonlight in front of just over one dozen people. (I could write 5,000 words about that change of fortune: just imagine.) The show realised all the triumphs and the illusions of this new teenybop – weenybop, somebody with ‘a sense of humour’ said – soundalive: the genuine enrichment of our common stock of temptations yet a limited repertoire of fantasy, the valiant vitality yet those faint, disturbing echos of a fagged out kind of fun. The show was hide and seek, pass the parcel, postman’s knock, pin the hook on the donkey, catch the spoilsport unawares, jelly, blancmange, chocolate buttons, a few tears…as if to say rock has died too many pathetic deaths, let’s start again. As if to say you could be happy. As if to say read everything you want to into this (oh, I would, given the chance) or read nothing at all. As if to say ‘be my best friend’. As if to say ‘AS IF!’

At the centre of all this is the barbed doll, the yellow yo yo, as clean as a washed cuddly toy, always on the verge of some dramatic discovery, happy to stick to lively chatter. Giving Altered Images a sense of future there’s THE INEVITABLE FAME OF CLARE. (I could write 10,000 words about the fame of Clare: just you wait.)

Go on, go on – just the main facts! Altered Images, February 1982, are in mint condition. It’s a long way from Foreigner or Ossie Osborne or Anti-Nowhere League, and these things are WORTH NOTING. Clare is as likely to be a new Gertrude Stein as a new Shirley Temple. Altered Images: as if anything is possible.

Having said that I have nothing else to say. (As if.)

© Paul MorleyNew Musical Express, 13 February 1982

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