Review – Kim Wilde

Despite its unmistakable stamp of crass calculation and its sprinkling of utter nonsense, “Kim Wilde” is an upbeat, entertaining debut. You can see right through it, but it doesn’t matter. All the good stuff is on the surface anyway. It’s a real kitchen-sink production, complete with post-Blondie pop-with-sass modern accoutrements (such as electronic keyboards that sound like hypertense watercoolers), the instrumental perkiness of the early girl-group sound, and the “I’m cool and inscrutable” vocal poses of the mid-60’s female mods. Water on glass, Chequered love and Falling out – the album’s strongest cuts – are so packed with activity that it’s all Wilde can do to keep up her end.

In a way, the record is a throwback to the years when a girl singer was used as a vehicle, given songs and a sound by hands behind the scenes. Wilde’s records are produced by her brother Ricky, and most of her material is written by him and her father. (Twenty years ago, Marty Wilde was England’s top singers, primarily by virtue of covering hits by U.S. stars like Bobby Vee and Dion.) So Kim essentially has been cast in a role by her family, and she’s quite adept at it. When she sings, just this side of shrill, “We only wanna stay young!/We only wanna be free!” (on Young heroes), it’s as enjoyable as a scene from Alan Freed’s ’50s film Don’t Knock the Rock. This type of pandering is so archaic that it may be ready to come back in style.

Other songs, such as Kids in America (her first U.K. hit) and Our town, are similarly self-conscious in their attempts to be youth anthems, but even these bits of exploitation have such crafty, giddy arrangements that it’s difficult to object. And on the less gimmicky pop songs – the ethereal, reggae-ish Everything we know and You’ll never be so wrong – Wilde’s plaintive voice gets a chance to emerge from her brother’s carnival of effects. The only time “Kim Wilde” truly fizzles is on Tuning in tuning on, a slow- paced, psychedeliatinged number about the infinite properties of sound – or some such foolishness. Otherwise, the album’s light-headedness is a lot of fun.