Strange Cruise

Strange Cruise

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After sending new romantic fans into apoplexy by turning Visage metallic on Beat Boy, Steve Strange formed a new band and completely abandoned the chilly synth pop that had become his trademark. Instead, Strange went for the AOR brass ring, recruiting veteran producer Mike Hedges (the Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees) to provide him a widescreen sound full of guitars and horns, and getting ex-Photos singer Wendy Wu to join him on vocals, with a crack studio band supplying the music. Sometimes it all works -- the brassy opener "Hit and Run" had hit potential, and the bass-driven grooves of "Animal Call" and "Love Addiction" are catchy enough. But while there aren't any massive miscalculations like the awful hard rock of Beat Boy's "Only the Good Die Young," the Strange/Wu duet on Sonny and Cher's "The Beat Goes On" is pretty embarrassing, as is Strange's stab at topicality, "Where Were Their Hearts." More problematic is that the Euro-mystique of Visage's club roots covered up a variety of shortcomings; by trading it for bland mainstream rock, Strange's limitations -- an average voice and sometimes below-average lyrics -- become much more noticeable. The curious will have to hear it, and it's become a rather sought-after artifact because of its scarcity, but the album was an unfortunate place for Strange to sink from the limelight. Despite the digs of those who figured him for little more than a clotheshorse, his style, imagination, and genuine talent deserved a better commercial swan song.

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