Picture the scene.
It’s 1981. Synth pop is about to explode good and proper all over the charts. New Romanticism is flexing its muscles and trampling all over the ashes of a dead but still twitching punk movement. Amidst the cataclysm of altering musical styles someone new is entering the fray. Anyone of a certain vintage will surely remember the arrival of a certain Kim Wilde and her opening salvo on the charts ‘Kids In America’, twenty years old with a characteristically large shock of blonde hair and a post teen pout.
The single made number 2 in the UK, as well as achieving similar success all over Europe and even managing to trouble the US charts by reaching a respectable 25. From that point onwards she continued to trouble the charts throughout the eighties with a string of tracks that never quite managed pop classic status but were if nothing else memorable snapshots of the time (seven million album sales, not a bad legacy). By the nineties however it was all but over and Ms Wilde had more or less retired from the charts and took to…gardening?
While some people refuse to give up the ghost and soldier on well past their sell by date Kim it would seem took to the world of horticulture and in recent years has become more renowned for her books on growing plants than belting out the hits.
So imagine my surprise when I recently discovered that this year she has released another album ‘Never Say Never’ courtesy of EMI Germany. The actual release date for the album was in September but this has been something of a low key release. The impetus for this album has been Europe if only for the reason that despite her years of seeming musical dormancy she’s actually managed to maintain a following with our European cousins (I know, I know…not always a harbinger of taste but stick with me).
The new album is part retrospective and part new material with a selection of her better known tracks being given a complete makeover for 2006. As an album created for a European market you have to wonder just how far into mullet rock /crap pop house territory this collection will go. The guitars have been cranked up and chucked down the front as you might expect but to my surprise it doesn’t disgrace itself providing you take it in the spirit I suspect it was intended. New tracks such as ‘Perfect Girl’ sit comfortably alongside older material like ‘You Came’ and the mere fact that some of the material dates back to the eighties and nineties give it a kind of pop-tastic retro cheesiness. In other places Wilde takes on some of today’s light to middleweight pop singers with material like ‘Together We Belong’ which bears a resemblance to the likes of Natalie Imbruglia with its acoustic driven backdrop (makes you think of tracks like ‘Torn’). Elsewhere there are Europop moments with the 4/4 heavy synth stabbed ‘Forgive Me’. Nothing life changing, but undeniably chart friendly.
There are guest appearances on here as well. Kim retreads her cover of ‘You Keep Me Hanging On’ only this time round she’s accompanied by Nena (yes, that Nena…altogether now 99 Red Balloons…). A strange slightly Eurythmics styled version this one, but passable all the same. Then of course ‘Kids In America’ gets a dusting off as a duet with Charlotte Hatherley (who incidentally did a song called Kim Wilde on her debut solo album which also incidentally is how I found this album in the first place). It works as well, there’s almost a sense of a torch being passed here, from the old dear in the health food adverts to one of pop/rock’s more interesting prospects (Hatherley’s solo album ‘Grey Will Fade’ from 2004, very worthy buy it).
There are of course a couple of ropey moments that come in the form of slightly dicey ballad ‘Baby Obey Me’ and the ‘take the money and run. asleep at the wheel’ remix of ‘Cambodia’ courtesy of Paul Oakenfold. A thoroughly thoughtless reworking of a pretty rough song to start with. Still there is new stuff like ‘I Fly’ and old like ‘View From A Bridge’ to counterbalance the whole thing.
In conclusion (and I never thought I’d see myself write this) it’s all pretty good stuff. Wilde was never the most sparkling of vocalists and if you listen to the original stuff there were times when she was flatter than road kill, but this time round she seems to have sharpened up her act. The performances are pretty strong and in light of some of the flotsam and jetsam that are littering the popular charts these days she actually makes a good account of herself.
Because of the nature of her deal the chances of finding this album in the racks at your local record emporium might be slightly slim but iTunes and I daresay other online musical portals should suffice. If you’re looking for a few decent pop moments with a hint of eighties retro flavour then you could do far worse.