Record Review: Vicious Pink – West View US 2xLP [part 1]

vicious pink west view cover art
Minimal Wave | US | 2xLP | 2022 | MW078

Vicious Pink: West View 1981-1986 – US – 2xLP [2022]

  1. Cccan’t You See
  2. My Private Tokyo 12″
  3. Promises
  4. 8:15 To Nowhere
  5. Why Me
  6. My Man + Me
  7. Baby It’s Too Late
  8. Blue [A World Of Blue]
  9. Why Me [demo]
  10. 8:15 to Nowhere [demo]
  11. Fetish [demo]
  12. In The Swim [demo]
  13. Ask Me To Stay 12″
  14. Face Hugger [21st Century 80s]
  15. Eyes That Smile

The allure of Vicious Pink has always been a double edged sword. The band were on one hand a Synthpop Duo; making charming records with producer Tony Mansfield of New Musik. Mansfield had produced hits not only for his own group, but also for the likes of acts as disparate as Mari Wilson, Naked Eyes, a-ha, and …Captain Sensible! On the other hand, the group also made far edgier club tracks that were closer to the marks being hit by groups like Cabaret Voltaire, with producers like Soft Cell’s David Ball, and again, Tony Mansfield.

They were neither fish nor fowl in terms of the public’s image of them. That willingness to move to either end of the commercial spectrum at will probably didn’t work in their favor. Their three EMI singles, while charting, never charted high enough for the label’s taste for them to commit to the album that was obviously recorded in any case. The album was intended to be called “Blue,” and while a loose conglomeration of tracks was [amazingly] cobbled together by EMI’s divisions in Canada, and…Spain; in the UK the band only had those three singles [plus a posthumous one in Belgium] to represent their legacy. Six if you also count the Vicious Pink Phenomena pair of singles that were released in ’82-’83 prior to the band signing with EMI. Until now.

The Minimal Wave label has now issued a double LP of Vicious Pink material that manages to dramatically expand the group’s vinyl footprint even as it will clearly never be the “Blue” album of fever dreams. The fascinating thing about it was that it pulled material from all of the band’s history spectrum to give us 72 minutes and 52 seconds of Vicious Pink [Phenomena] to sink our teeth into. Three quarters of it having not been commercially released before. Some of these tracks were made available by Brian Moss on YouTube or Soundcloud platforms, but like the song says, ain’t nothing like the real thing.

vicious pink cccan't you see cover art

I’ve been so inundated with remixes of “CCCan’t You See” over the years [there are maybe 8-10?] that hearing the straightforward 3:30 album version in the context of “West View” plays like a bolt from the blue. One was left appreciating the clarity of this simple, but effective Synthpop vision. The distinctive sampling hook tends to get stuck in the cranium like glue for hours on end. In 1984, this was absolutely a novel application of the Fairlight but crucially, the rest of the synths on the track were not samplers but lots of Roland gear to elevate the sonics from the 8-bit limitations of the crude Fairlight. The rolling 303 bassline just wants to keep going all day long! I’m partial to the synthetic “finger cymbals” used throughout the song. This was just such a perfect piece of Pop that I’m aghast to hear that it only got as high in the UK charts as number 67. And shockingly, that was as good as things got, chartwise, for the duo.

my private tokyo 12" cover art

The trilling synth loops and primitive rhythm box that heralded “My Private Tokyo” was only from two years earlier, but that time can sound like a decade when it came to technology’s rapid march, but the chord sequence sounded…familiar. Did Pet Shop Boys borrow this one for “Rent?” One can rhythmically say “ha-cha” along with it perfectly. This amusing number was unique in that it was the first and only time that Brian Moss co-wrote any lyrics, leaving it to Josie Warden afterward. Any song that invokes YMO can’t be anything but all good as the track was making clear the appropriate nature of this music to have been released on the Minimal Wave label. For this debut single, the band may have crafted the quintessential Minimal Synth track.

Alas, the fidelity of this single sounded like it had been sourced from a well played club DJs stash instead of the crisp master tape of “CCCan’t You See.” The rhythm track was riven with sibilant noise which was somewhat quashed by the liberal application of NR; adding a gauze-like sheen to the diminished music. At limes like this, when sourcing tracks for reissue from records that sound VG at best, that I wish there was some sort of mastering clearing house forum that could crowdsource needed tracks from fans when there were instances where the master could not be found and all someone had on hand was a well-played record clearly not up to the task at hand. My own rip of this sounds immeasurably better. If I were producing this compilation and that’s all we had, I would have passed on including that track. While this album was mastered from a wide variety of sources, this was the only one where a 12″ that was clearly not up to snuff was used.

Fortunately, the B-side, “Promises,” was clearly sourced from a master as the fidelity hugely better than the preceding track. The band defined the Minimal Synth ballad here with little more than a rhythm box, some white noise, Syndrums and a bit of Gallic accordion for that Continental touch as Ms. Warden dispassionately recounted landmarks of France, and landmarks of a love affair.

vicious pink - 8:15 to nowhere cover art

I have to chuckle when I read of how Vicious Pink themselves referred to their style of music as “techno” back in the day. My friend, The RAHB and I used the same terminology for any band [like this one, for example] that was steeped in synthesizers. The irony here was that a cut like “8:15 To Nowhere” really did feel like a foundational track to join the Detroit School for developing what came to be called Tecnho as the 80s matured. This was a massive instrumental track that echoed the relentless locomotive energy of its namesake to fill the horizon with sound. Ironically, it was covered by Talla2XLC in a Trance mix 14 years later that showed how far ahead of the game the band had been. There’s no comparison! The brief 2:45 track took a break from its relentless drive to add strange orchestral sampled loops in its coda as a counterpoint. This track is always welcome but the most amazing thing about it was that it was the B-side to “CCCan’t You See!” This one has needed to be a six minute 12″ A-side for 38 years. Though our friends in Belgium, did release it as a 12″ in 1988!

We’re out of time now, and only through side one of the LP, but from here on out it’s all “new” material that has never been commercially released. Join us tomorrow as we take the plunge.

Next: …We’re Not In Kansas Any More

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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