Boomkat Product Review:
Finally available on vinyl, ’The Best of Fad Gadget’ is a crucial survey of synth-pop’s most incredible, original performer, covering his hugely influential mix of puckered industrial production and avant-pop ohrwurms c. 1979-1985.
Originally issued on 2CD in 2001, including material drawn from Fad Gadget’s four seminal albums and run of singles, ‘The Best of Fad Gadget’ highlights the inimitable breadth and spirit of Frank Tovey’s confrontational, snarkily playful, and exceptional contributions to the original electro/post-industrial/new wave/synth-pop canon.
As Paul Morley labours the point in the liner notes, Frank Tovey/Fad Gadget was the missing link between so, so many strands of late 20th century art and music. Combining an autodidactic approach to instrumentation (he couldn’t play anything, so naturally took to electronic equipment) with deadpan vocals and a background in mime and performance art to creatively/destructively operate in the gap between punk proper and new wave/post-punk paradigms, he arguably established or was the first to explore many of the themes (machinery, human sexuality, mass media, religion and dehumanisation) and styles that would be swarmed upon by waves of artists in his wake.
Spanning his early singles, 1979’s sleazy slug ‘Back To Nature’ and the innovative use of B&D drills on 1980’s killer ‘Ricky’s Hand/Handshake’, thru to his addictive big hits such as ‘Lady Shave’ (1981) and ‘Love Parasite’ from 1982’s ‘Under The Flag’ LP, all recorded at London’s RMS and Blackwing studios, and up to the swagger of his Einstürzende Neubauten-nodding ‘Collapsing New People’ (1983) recorded at Hansa Studios in Berlin; the compilation supplies an unmissable distillation of Frank Tovey’s unique energy for anyone who wasn’t there at the time, or who has somehow not yet encountered Fad Gadget’s brilliance.
Interspersed with stacks of guest input by the architects of synth-pop and ‘80s music - Daniel Miller, Eric Radcliffe, John Fryer, Alison Moyet, Rowland S. Howard, Flood - it all forms a still-bleeding cross-section of pop culture/avant-garde that can never be fully sutured. One may need to add a little imagination, or even just check some old clips, to put this highly organised music in context of Tovey’s notoriously feral live shows, often involving self-inflicted physical harm, but that’s all part of the charm and wonder of this era - achingly sharp pop music made by artful rogues intent on short-circuiting, subverting and rewiring the system.
Following 1985, Frank Tovey dropped the Fad Gadget stage name and recorded a handful of often acoustic albums before quitting the biz altogether in the early ‘90s. Around 2001 he revived the project to support Depeche Mode on their world tour, but, sadly, while recording a new album, Frank died in 2002 from heart problems he had suffered since childhood. Fair to say that since then there have been two whole cycles of ElectroClash and EBM/post-industrial music which are hugely indebted to his enduring influence. ‘The Best of Fad Gadget’ is a perfect primer and unshakeable testament to Frank Tovey and Fad Gadget’s pivotal prowess.