Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Kim Wilde - Close

Despite something of a 90s glitch of camp kitsch (no bad thing I must point out), Kim Wilde has managed to resist the danger of becoming passed over as a novelty still-around 80s act. Sure, the nostalgia-feeding Here & Now tours have paid for her roots to get done a few times, but her striking legacy as an electro-pop icon have only been strengthened in Europe at least with the singer continuing to adapt herself by recording new versions of her old songs and taking up gardening. When albums and singles haven't been hits though, her 6th album Close stands out as her crowning commercial achievement, selling over 2 million copies worldwide, but what about artistically?

Flop single Hey Mr Heartache is a weak-willed attempt at personal affirmation. It's a bit dismal, but a brave choice for opening an otherwise polished album. It functions well in context, and might have benifitted from sliding down the tracklisting a good 7 or 8 places.

The everlasting pop ejaculation You Came was a full facial of wailing euphoria (just hear the moment Wilde unleashes those adlibs whilst the synthesised instrumental breaks loose), and became one of the singer's biggest hits, epitomizing her lush vocal style and softened the hard-boiled sensibility of earlier material, and is reduced to simmer via a chugging bassline that never loses flavour. The stridently fertile Shep Pettibone 7" slides in all the momentum you'd expect from double that length and I swear I'm not normally so easily pleased.

Four Letter Word sounds like a vasceline-lensed 80s soap opera theme tune, but nevermind, it was her 3rd consecutive UK top ten hit. With damp vocals dripping like a tap, she coos to the apex of sophistication, with her characteristically remote and faintly bitter expression, I can imagine her singing this with both wide, hurt eyes and the thinnest trace of a smirk not least at the obvious innuendo.

Kim's only major shortcoming on this album (and something that might be more relevant to her elegant follow-up LP Love Moves) is that she is something of a creature of her arrangements, and on Love In The Natural Way she delivers one more 80s quite-OK pop-soul number. Her bid here stiffed at a megre UK #32 and bizarrely this was the direction to launch her career into the 90s. Also, stealing Live To Tell's keyboard-trembling mist is no less pleasing.

Above: wacking out hits with Wacko on his tour helped Kim not just love in the natural way, but pledge to look it as well.

Spending yet more time feeling sensitive, Love's A No huffs and puffs itself up into a right old state. However, Kim's MOR journey is ornate enough to dazzle those willing to put up with it.

Slitting through the sulky serenades, slut failure anthem Never Trust A Stranger makes use of the singer's parallel penchant for harder edges, shrieking with the sore sense of seeking solance after getting ravaged by some cad she must have found at her local biker bar. Posessing gratifying moments of mortification and sardonic self-deprication ('I thought it was heaven' couldn't be any more sarcastic, it almost sounds nasty), I don't know what the big deal is myself: 'savaged my soul and took all the control' sounds like a pretty good deal to me. Kim's oil-gargling gurning is only matched by sheer bristling guitar energy. Emotions activated, it is a wounded song where there's no room left for weakness. 'Defeated' but not out of the game, and not on it or anything let's hope, Kim sinks her teeth into the words with an insatiable appetite, which is probably why I can't get enough of it even after all these years. Struggling put-out humiliation and sharing it with the world on a hit single can't be easy but emphasising muscle over sweetness pays off in spades.

Despite verse 1 initially suggesting a melody-eclipse, You Be The One gets going with a poignantly concealed-sounding but determined chorus. I just hope he's not a stranger.

Slightly more profitable with a languid disco insouciance, European Soul is a bit lost in the crowd. Her piano man even helps her out when she's got no wandering chorus to snore to us.

Recharging the same batteries used for the electrifying rampage of Stranger, Stone ripples with a ripped and ribbed bass. Kim sings as if tasting stars in the sky, I just love how stylish she sounds during the bridges. Declaring 'cos this is our time' sentiments attracts all my attention and eats away all my cares.

Sounding troubled and burdened by a suddel lull in solid material, Lucky Guy is a dripping ballad with arrangements that don't fully warrant much effort from the singer. Imparting trite spiritual longings to little fanfare, it is a faintly flaccid finale.

Verdict:
The album's collision of Wilde's trademark tough and pouty style with the softer material makes for an album that never loses its queasy tension. At her most instinctive and assured, Kim triumphs on the stadium-ready You Came and Stranger and even when the material dips, she delivers a credibility that such substances wouldn't deserve if sung by any other 80s any-others. Reigning in her shoulder-pad pop is brave, but politely executed sultriness is something she pulls off along with not just her bra, but also an unassuming wit and subtle sense of guessing exactly what we're all thinking when she sings that love is a four letter word, etc. Her man problems are simply more engaging when complimenting their semen volume or grimmacing reverberations about trusting strangers that's all, but altogether it's a slick and cohesively compelling collection.

7.5/10

4 comments:

Jerzy said...

Hey, you have a real talent for words. It was a pleasure to read it, as it is not worse than reviews in professional magazines... better, if anything :) It's funny because my two favourite songs on the album - Lucky Guy and European Soul did not have any great impact on you :) But well, we are all different. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

I loved "CLOSE", when i heard You Keep me hangin -so i went out and bought Close to my surprise i didn't find Y K H O on it but i found all new world of 80's electro-Pop, the album is just flawless.
PS: Michael Jackson did help the album going Platinum in most countries it was released.

undisco_me said...

Oh I'm in a flurry to go through her albums, so maybe I overlooked those tracks.

I agree, Close is stunning - it holds together extremely well. I held off giving it a higher score, but it's peaks are way beyond 10 (I actually think Love Moves is a better album, but I might get around to that one soon).

The MJ thing is rather impressive, I need to hunt down some good Kim interviews from various eras.

JP.M said...

Hello all, this album is probably the best of Kim Wilde to my taste.
Do not miss August 13 her new single "Lights Down Low" and the album in late August
"Come Out and Play" ... jpaul