"It's all about the music, maaaan." So goes the moronic mantra of the tediously dull meat-and-potatoes rocker. Safe to say this is not something the late Steve Strange would ever have been caught uttering - on the contrary, for him "it" seems to have been about pretty much anything but the music: fashion, art, film, clubbing. As Tom Ewing comments in the Guardian, the Visage frontman and Blitz Club founder "played one instrument: his aesthetic. But this was a time when the careful curation and deployment of an aesthetic could open a multitude of doors for audiences."
That's not to say the music didn't (and doesn't) matter, or that Visage were purely about style over substance. I wasn't familiar with many of their songs - created behind the scenes by Ultravox and Magazine - but Strange's death has led me to investigate further. 'The Damned Don't Cry' and signature track 'Fade To Grey' are icy modernist synthpop of the sort that has proven hugely influential in the years since, while 'Visage' has hints of Adam Ant and Duran Duran as well as punk.
No doubt they'll be putting in an appearance in Simon Reynolds' Rip It Up And Start Again (a book I'm currently knee-deep in). To me, it still seems like an improbable leap between British punk's messy demise and the rise of the New Romantic movement , but I suspect Visage will be cited in helping to join the dots.
(Thanks to Mike for the link.)