Here’s where my Gina X timeline gets messy. “Yinglish” was her fourth, and final album, but it was only the second of her albums that I encountered in realtime; two years after I happened across her first. I was at the local Peaches outlet when I saw that there was a new Gina X solo album out on the English Statik label. With no press coverage or web to scour, this was a bolt from the blue. As far as I knew at the time, there was only a single, amazing, Gina X Performance album extant, and it was already on my racks. Adding value to the pricey [$9.98] import was a bonus album on remixes! Well, that didn’t hurt! I bought a copy and suggested to my friend Tom that he investigate, since I think I had infected him with the Gina X virus with a copy of “Nice Mover” by that time.
By the time of this album, Gina and Zeus [who reports suggest were married at the time!] had made the plunge and were active in the UK. Zeus had produced the amazing second album by Birmingham’s Fashion, the first Dead Or Alive album, and were fresh from the third John Foxx album, “The Golden Section.” This change of location meant that there were a pair of familiar names in the credits of this album; J.J. Jezcalik [Art of Noise/ZTT Theam] on Fairlight and Mel Gaynor [Simple Minds] drums + percussion. Parts of it were even recorded in John Foxx’s studio, The Garden.
The biggest change is down to Jezcalik since the album has a definite AON vibe. Held had used the PPG Wave sampling keyboard on “X-Traordinaire,” but listening to the results, one would hardly know that as it completely avoids sampler clichés. This album, in contrast, is every inch the Fairlight confection of the time. Fortunately, the compositions here are uniformly strong, so the ca. 1984 digital tech used to make this album, can recede to the background while the listener enjoys it.
The first album sounded amazing, with spectacular songs to accompany it. The second album floundered in both terms of production and writing. The third album had production on a strong footing but the writing was hampered by a reliance on gratuitous shock value where the band once merely raised eyebrows. This time the technical and artistic goals were in alignment with the best set of songs they had written since “Nice Mover.” While I prefer the fully analog sound of “Nice Mover,” the strong material here is such that the reliance on Fairlight and Simmons drums doesn’t even bother me.
The album begins with one of two covers, a very AON arrangement of The Beatles’ “Drive My Car.” It’s overlong [6:12] and not the best song they could have covered. If they had included a shorter mix, I would have preferred it. At least they didn’t use the 7:44 12″ single mix! As it is, it’s a weak opening salvo on an otherwise strong album. Far better is the next track, “Die Kunst Des Leibens.” Ms.Kikoine sticks to her native language and really comes on strong with the sturm und drang for a Teutonic feast for the ears. The production relies on a dry flatness, that suits the delivery well.
The second cover [and final single from the album] is a much better proposition than “Drive My Car” was. Kikoine adds much to a rollicking cover of Serge Gainsbourg’s venerable “Harley Davidson.” Where else can one experience the splendor of a German singing in French? It’s like an unholy mashup of Edith Piaf and Marlene Dietrich?
“Thanatos Tanzt” has a methodical arrangement that recalls elements of Japan’s “Nightporter.” It’s nice to hear the synths being used with a light touch. It’s far from the sometimes AON quality of some of this album. I love how the lyrics are heavy [but not pointlessly shocking] yet coupled with light, subtle, and airy music accompaniment. The first side ends with the excellent “French Lift.” The unfaltering pace of the track attains an urgency while keeping the BPM low; a nice trick.
Side two gets off to a bang with “Kanal Banal,” which offers a tumultuous torrent of trilingual wordplay over its choppy music bed. That’s good, because the rest of side two keeps the energy level subdued. “Londra” is hypnotically paced over a music bed based on a looped backing vocal sample. “Waiting” is the album’s “Moments In Love.” “En Vogue” is based on loops of Kikoine saying “sweet nothings,” “sensation,” and “peacocks!” each looped at different rhythms.
All of the songs here indicate that Gina and Zeus had finally grasped a successful way forward from the foundation that “Nice Mover” had built six years earlier, following the confusion of albums two and three. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Apart from an unreleased duet with Billy MacKenzie on the Associates “Perhaps” album, Kikoine has not recorded a further note in 28 years. But with every band that ever had a following reforming for a last slice of an ever shrinking pie, maybe it would be premature to count Gina X Performance out of the running for good. Stranger things have happened.
Meanwhile, the Rock GPA for Gina X Performance is thus: a 2.875 or a solid B. A bit higher than I was expecting but I listened their entire discography many times for the purposes of this GPA and found “X-traordinaire” and “Voyeur” to have merits in advance of my memories, to a certain extent.