Rock GPA: Gina X Performance [part 1]

Gina X Performance were a German group who I discovered because of Rusty Egan’s penchant for adding the band to his New Romantic playlists at his Blitz DJ gigs. I’d read a print reference to the group for about a year before I chanced upon their seminal “Nice Mover” album in the import cutout bins of Record City in Central Florida. I bought that 1979 album nearly three years after it was originally issued and the fact that it was three years less than contemporary didn’t keep it from dominating my music listening for the latter part of 1982. Above and beyond new issues from some of my favorite bands.

But I never happened across anything else by GXP, in spite of keeping an eye peeled. It remained until 1984, when I saw that the now solo Gina X released a “solo” album on the UK Statik label, so purchase was immediate. Better still, it came with a bonus remix album to give me a little more to chew on. Even so, it remained until 1991 until I happened to stop in at Rock & Roll Heaven in Central Florida, where I was ecstatic to find another GXP album; 1980’s “X-Traordinaire.” This gave me three albums of GXP listening after a decade of fandom.

The last piece of the GXP puzzle finally fell into place when the LTM label in 2005, issued all four Gina X projects on CD for the first time, saving me many hours of work. The 1981 album “Voyeur” was so off the map for me, that there was not even a mention of it in any of the Trouser Press Record Guide books that I owned, in spite of the other GXP albums being reviewed within. Prior to LTM’s reactivation of their catalogue, the web was an arid and forbidding place if one ventured out to find any GXP information. I remember seeing a mention of the band on Tigersushi, who reissued the band’s single “No G.D.M.” about a decade ago. Finally obtaining “Voyeur” completed the quartet of her recordings, all made with the great Zeus B. Held acting as keyboardist and music director.  It’s past due time for another Rock GPA, but this one will be neat and tidy; not the sprawling beast that this feature of the blog has recently turned into.

Gina X Performance – Nice Mover | 1978 – 4

Ms. Kikoine starts her career off with a bang with this incredible album of late 70s analog synthesis under the capable fingers of Zeus. B. Held. The Cologne electro collective was comprised of Gina Kikoine on vocals with Zeus B. Held on keyboards and Laslo Czigany on drums forming the core of the group. The material is Germanic, decadent, lesbian/transgender, electrodisco given a huge helping of deadpan deliver courtesy of La Kikoine. Really. More than one song is about wanting to be a man, making this album just the thing for your Osterberliner gender-bender parties.

The album kicks off with the slinky title cut, which features ascending, harmonized vocoder BVs before the slinky electro funk gets right down to it with some Moog bass. The album is a guitar-free zone but critically, rhythm is the province of a living, drummer, playing an acoustic kit. Three years later and this music would  have been compromised by the presence of a Linn but for now, it remains a glorious, completely analog production. Ms. Kikoine’s declamatory, flat German accented vocals are so perfect that they manage to best Nico at her own game.  They achieve a icily lascivious, paradoxical quality as “transformers” [we’re not talking robots here] and “Studio 54” are invoked for their decadent associations. But the program is just getting started.

“No G.D.M. [dedicated to Quentin Crisp]” cements the band’s lasting reputation right then and there on track two. The cut is announced by crystalline synth waves radiating outward like raindrops in a puddle. The song is based on Crisp’s “Naked Civil Servant” biography and sports the most sinuous bassline I’ve ever heard that kicks in after the drums begin in earnest. The tempo is cool and controlled as Gina relates the tale of Crisp’s unrealized desire for a “great dark man” to take him as his lover. The bridge relates how Crisp accentuated his flamboyance in the face of censure and the illegality of a gay lifestyle in mid-20th century Britain. The music manages to mirror Crisp’s wit and bon viance during what was undoubtedly a difficult life with notes of wistful longing following the bridge during the song’s “c’est la vie” coda. Magnificent.

“Plastic Surprise Box” is punctuated by the sounds of V2s falling from the sky as it ups the album’s BPM beyond the stately [if not glacial] pace of the first two numbers. The track even increases in speed and pitch during the tracks’s last minute. This picks up the energy level for side one before another longer song of a more protracted tempo closes out the side. “Casablanca” is the methodically paced song of visiting “the world’s hottest city, where they change from XX to XY.” While Ms. Kikoine usually sings on the album in a flat, butch voice, she brilliantly echoes the “XY” lyric with some very feminine backing vocals of “…why…why…why…why.”

The second half of the album gets off to a running start with “Be A Boy,” which is certainly thematically linked to the preceding song. This is the most briskly paced number of the album, with a fast BPM that has a great cold, electropulse intro that presages D.A.F. or Die Krupps. The swooping synths give the track a real kinetic kick as the the rhythm is accentuated by Held’s Fender Rhodes piano in the foreground.

“Exhibitionism” is one more trip to the land of slink as Gina relates how she gets “hooked on the drug, called exhibitionism” over an undulating electro vibe. The next cut, “Black Sheep” examines how she’s “feeling different from the rest of the herd” as the crisp electropop backing is punctuated by musique concrete drop ins of actual sheep bleating or voices murmuring abstractly. The album ends with “Tropical Comic Strip,” the album’s funkiest number, though I’ve jet to ascertain just what the track is about. It doesn’t seem to be about transgender issues on the face of it, but the lyrics might be alluding to factors beyond my ken.

This is one of my all time favorite albums with a singular vibe like almost no other album I can name. It’s the magnificent sound of a talented prog rock keyboardist [Held started out in the group Birth Control] moving to a funk/new wave/disco hybrid slightly ahead of Grace Jones, who would echo the sounds and styles here in a slightly different fashion via the Compass Point All Stars in the next year or so.

Next: the difficult [to find] sophomore album…

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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2 Responses to Rock GPA: Gina X Performance [part 1]

  1. Charlie M. says:

    Here are some lyrics to ‘Tropical Comic Strip’ that I found on the Internet:

    Their butler is a monkey married to a hula-hooping rattlesnake.
    The grass is synthetic; the jungle is plastic.
    Oranges imported from Eretz, Israel
    decorating some bubble gum palm trees.

    O Jane, what’s the matter with you?
    Do you feel alright?
    I hope so in the devil’s name.
    Bye bye, ciao bella.
    Tarzan, what’s the matter with you?
    Do you feel alright?
    I hope so in the devil’s name.
    Bye bye, ciao bello.

    Tarzan and Jane are drinking a shell of coconut milk,
    eating marshmallows with bloody red ketchup,
    sitting on a Hollywood swing, TV in a hammock,
    remembering Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup swimming pool.

    O Jane, what’s the matter with you?
    Do you feel alright?
    I hope so in the devil’s name.
    Bye bye, ciao bella.
    Tarzan, what’s the matter with you?
    Do you feel alright?
    I hope so in the devil’s name.
    Bye bye, ciao bello.
    Bye bye, ciao bello.
    Ciao!

    Like

  2. Charlie M. says:

    What I’d really like to find are the lyrics to ‘Casablanca’

    Like

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