Date: 1 June 1981
Originally published in: [unknown] (UK)
Written by: Mike Nicholis
Pure pop has a problem. At its best – say Squeeze or Tom Petty – it can be too subtle for the mass market. At its worst – Sheena Easton (there’s no ‘say’ about it!) – it appeals to the lowest common denominator and winds up as worthlessly patronising drivel. Now Kim Wilde shoots straight for the pure pop punters yet steers clear of both traps. This is one reason why her debut album is quite an achievement.
Sure there are flaws: obviously she can’t compose otherwise father Marty and brother Ricky wouldn’t have written all the songs. And was it really necessary to include both singles and one B-side amongst the 10 tracks? Then there’s the production. Admittedly, it’s very up-to-the-minute and not remotely bland but at times it’s somewhat gauche and heavy-handed like the use of effects on the opening of ‘Water on Glass’.
It is not nearly as smooth as, for example, Abba and the comparison is valid because if her career continues to be guided as successfully as it has been so far, there’s no reason why she shouldn’t go on to notch up a similar number of hits.
That’s not to say she’s a totally manufactured star since there’s no mistaking her individuality. There’s a fair amount of variety here but the different strands are held together by that distinctive voice. True, the deliberately lethargic ‘Everything We Know’ is reminiscent of Blondie’s ‘The Tide Is High’ but by and large Kim has avoided the temptation of trying to be another Debbie Harry and carves out an identity of her own.
In fact, many of the songs give the impression that she’s worked hard to get to grips with them and assume the role required of the singer. As a rule this works better on the slower tunes. ‘You’ll never be so wrong’ and ‘Falling out’ boasting very impressive deliveries. In contrast the bouncy ‘2-6-5-8-0’ outstays its welcome notwithstanding the timely introduction of a brass section.
Regarding the rest of the quicker cuts, none of them are up to the standard of ‘Kids in America’ even if that was an exceptionally high standard for any newcomer to set herself.
‘Young Heroes’ and ‘Our Town’ are similarly raunchy slices of assertive self-glorification but rely too much on their hooks and could do with something comparable to the appealy ‘whoo ooo oo”s of ‘Chequered Love’.
The concluding ‘Tuning In Tuning On’ provides this requisite experimentation. A clever closer, it shows another possible direction for young Ms W. leaving the listener headily anticipating the follow up.
Like the record, this review must conclude on an optimistic note. Though scarcely LP of the year, it’s a good pop album from a girl who is nothing if not unpretentious.
She’s got her sights square on success which she looks as capable of handling as she is of gaining. Pure pop has a problem which on this showing Kim Wilde doesn’t share.