Under the alias Fad Gadget, as well as his own name later on, English singer and synth player Frank Tovey's quirky, unpredictable art-pop garnered a cult following in the rock underground. Tovey had studied performance art at Leeds Art College in the late '70s, and moved to London to put together a musical group with which to apply his knowledge. The first artist signed to producer/Normal leader Daniel Miller's Mute label, Fad Gadget debuted in 1979 with the edgy singles "Back to Nature" and "Ricky's Hand," the latter of which featured Tovey playing an electric drill over an odd electronic background.
For his 1980 debut album, the somber Fireside Favorites, Tovey was backed by such musicians as Miller (synth), Eric Radcliffe (guitar, bass), Phil Wauquaire (bass, synth), Nick Cash (drums, accordion), and John Fryer (percussion). The darker, more violent Incontinent arrived in 1981, which saw most of the highly fluid Fad Gadget lineup returning, augmented by vocalists Anne Clift and B.J. Frost, keyboardist David Simmons, and bassist/guitarist Peter Balmer; there was a guest turn from Wire drummer Robert Gotobed as well.
1982's Under the Flag marked a new musical maturity, employing better production values and a more upbeat soul/dance flavor in support of Tovey's musings on the Falklands war and his newborn child; Alison Moyet provided guest vocals and saxophone.
1983 was a fairly quiet year for Fad Gadget, as Tovey recovered from two broken legs he suffered onstage during a European tour. He returned in early 1984 with Gag, which proved to be the final album recorded under the Fad Gadget name.
After an experimental collaboration with Boyd Rice (Non) entitled Easy Listening for the Hard of Hearing, Tovey began recording under his own name, with little change in his uncompromising approach. The compilation The Fad Gadget Singles was issued in 1986; Tovey continued to record into the early '90s. In 2001, Tovey dusted off Fad Gadget and began performing again under the name.
In addition to an appearance at London's Elektrofest, Tovey opened for Depeche Mode on his labelmates' Exciter tour. Mute released The Best of Fad Gadget, a two-disc set of ace material, B-sides, and remixes. New material had been written and plans for new recordings were laid, but Tovey unexpectedly passed away in his home on April 3, 2002. ~ Steve Huey, All Music Guide