Monday, 21 November 2011

The Wilde One

Here's a very exciting record by an icon of Female Brutalism, the excellent Kim Wilde. This must be one of the hardest bass lines ever recorded; I suspect even JJ Burnel would have found it un peu trop fort. Extremely salty (no doubt Frankie-inspired) lyrics too.

Wilde's career was notoriously up-and-down, but her early records in particular are so harsh (imagine Gary Numan, but without the warmth) that I'm amazed that she managed to put together a career at all.

Wilde bore the same kind of relationship to the other girlie pop stars of the 80’s that the Mako Shark bears to the species of fish that turn up battered in your local chippy. At her Valkyrie best, her records sound like attempts to smuggle the colossal dynamics of When The Levee Breaks into the soft, peaceful flatlands of the Top Ten.

"Never Trust A Stranger" is typical Wilde - relentless, pummelling, hysterical, it’s about as subtle as the Wehrmacht. Kim was always more popular on the Continent, where she was granted icon status, than at home, and it’s easy to see why a small maritime nation like Britain would recoil at the sheer excess of it all, and demand the pound of tweeness that all the other pop stars gave it.

Her cover of the Motown classic "You Keep Me Hanging On" is equally unforgiving. Actually quite a delicate and subtle song when originally performed by The Supremes, in Kim’s brutal hands it’s encased in a cyborg exoskeleton and permitted to fire molten spurts of treated guitar at innocent passers-by.

"Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love" is a great later single, Boney M transported to Valhalla, tied to a silken bed, and electrocuted with gloriously excessive guitar pyrotechnics. Again, the great thing about it is the way that it just keeps piling on and piling on, way beyond the point where it would have made any commercial sense (the record was largely a flop).

We could do with this kind of icy warrior-queen in the harsh decades that lie ahead, but alas Kim gave it all up to take up organic gardening. I hope she's still got that guitarist locked in the shed.

(Originally posted here)


Martin Wisse said...

Wilde is a bit of a sad case: loads of potential repressed by her manager/father (iirc) who wanted her to be more poppy/sex kitten. Ultimately she got Stock, Aitken & Watermanned.

Always had a weakness for her.

ralph dorey said...

I was going to say about the dad thing, but Phil you're completely right about the savagery of the music, its not far from early Marc Almond.

Really its brutality lies in the muscular studio production. It's all samples bar the vocals and (perhaps) a DI'd guitar and despite everything being drenched in "cathedral" reverb in both directions it sounds like it's going off right next to your ear. I never realised Kim Wilde was such a pop assault. As a test I just put on Prince's Controversy which actually sounds restrained in comparison. There's no space in Kim Wilde's tracks at all, it's like a digital Raw Power or Bomb Squad productions with casios. Once again it proves that there is nothing as sonically aggressive as the mainstream.

Anonymous said...

Michael Jackson asked Kim to go on Tour with him in 1988 (for 3 months) on his BAD tour. That says a lot about Kim, she was different and her unique voice/Music is very hard to be forgotten. Glad she is back!

Phil Knight said...

I think the thing about Kim was that her natural instincts were basically rock-orientated, and Martin's right that they were progressively neutered, but she was on the kind of recording contract that demanded hits and not artistry.

The first four albums are really hard-edged, though. Check out "Shoot To Disable" from "Catch As Catch Can", pure Numanoid death-rock.

Julian Bond said...

It's probably worthwhile digging around productions from Richard James Burgess; he of Landscape and early Spandau Ballet. He was involved in producing at least some of Kim Wilde's output and these tracks have the same over the top feel of Spandau's Chant #1. I worked on the Chant #1 sessions and even after pre-mixing the drum tracks, 24 tracks still wasn't enough for all the brass and claps he kept adding. So we had to sync two 24T Studers to make a 48 track mix. Pretty much every time we wound back to start, one or other would spool off the reels. Nightmares.

As an aside, those sessions were further confused because he was trying to date Pamela Stephenson at the time (while wearing a PVC jumpsuit) but she was simultaneously being courted by Billy Connoly, even though he was still married. And all this pre-mobile so, frequent telephone breaks and messages via the studio receptionist.