Out on the fringes of the more danceable parts of the New Romantic movement lies the oddity that was Fashion. Fashion was a band, not a style although the Birmingham England based band knew their way around the fashion isles. Like a lot of bands that came out of late ’70s Britain, their brand of post punk was laced with the usual reggae and ska cues.
Somewhere between the times they opened for bands like U2 and Billy Idol, they evolved their sound to a kind of David Bowie meets Icehouse. By 1979, a very young Duran Duran had opened for them. They had a few European hits and some changes in their line up.
After more personnel changes, Fashion emerged as a new wave band with a few latent R&B tendencies. During this time they could have been compared to ABC or Heaven 17, but Fashion seemed to go their own way with a sophisticated dance pop sound. They had little company as intelligent dance music was a rarity outside of Gang of Four during this time still stained with echos of disco.
Their second album Fabrique from 1982 made a dent in the UK charts where it stayed for 16 weeks. At least three singles made the top 50 singles charts there, but were almost ignored on this side of the Atlantic. One of those songs ‘Love Shadow’ did get a peep from MTV. It was even a minor hit in the US, with dance audiences.
Lead vocalist Tony Dial’s restrained vocals combined with the band’s knack for funky basslines made Fabrique a surprisingly rewarding album. The heavy metallic sheen of early ’80s synthesizers are heard throughout, but Fabrique had enough diversity to keep things interesting.
Despite the sometimes over produced sound, there were simple moments as in the funky restraint of ‘Love Shadow’. Fabrique had a little something for everyone. A bit dancefunk with equal parts of glampop and industural, the range and quality of songs on Fabrique should have attracted more attention than it did in America.
The album was nearly three years old by the time the popular show Miami Vice used the song ‘White Stuff’ on the season 2 premier episode. The brief exposure might have helped sales of Fabrique, but most fans like myself found this one in the cut out bin.
Being that the rage for all things ’80s is slowly moving back to the beginning of the decade, its my hope that Fashion, or at least the Fabrique album is re-discovered. It’s already been re-released in England as The Height Of Fashion in 2004.
With minor hits from the pre-Fabrique era added, it reached the #10 on the UK album chart. Sadly, it was not distributed widely in America. Thankfully the internet equalizes this disadvantage for anyone willing to a quick search on Amazon.
The sophistication of Fabrique was replaced with brash electro energy on the follow up release Twilight Of Idols in 1984. Apparently the band had decided to follow the Duran Duran/ABC model, although there were a few great R&B-like moments. The band was reformed in 2009 by its original singer/guitarist Al James after having recorded three albums from 1979 to 1984.