[…continued from last post]
Side two began with some new Vicious Pink music to reach our ears decades later, and “Why Me” was a winning cocktail of hyper-kinetic Synthpop that pursued an interesting lyrical conceit. Never before has “having a moan” sounded so animated and lively. The drum programming was almost a seamless continuation of what they had started on “8:15 To Nowhere” with the same kind of train rhythm to the song. This was one of the shelved tracks but it was obviously made to the band’s high standard.
Then the stakes got raised even higher when the next track, “My Man And Me” got underway. This was obviously single caliber music with frenetic rhythm programming holding court with paradoxical harp glissandos stop them making a sound that was both urgent and lush. Impatient, and languorous. The piano notes scattered weightlessly throughout the song juxtaposed against the drum programming for a delightful contrast. Brian Moss even got to get some strong BVs into this one. The track played like a mantra that could never end. Indeed, it currently occupies my mind for hours at a time. The unheard songs here were truly expanding the Vicious Pink storyline.
Then “Baby It’s Too Late” hit and now I had a track vying with the likes of “Fetish” as an all time favorite Vicious Pink cut. Imagine Cabaret Voltaire programming a cover version of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” with Ms. Warden emoting like a Valkyrie over the top of it! The combination of the hard, relentless beat with clavinet style interjections on the backbeat was a miraculous enough hook, but the sampled calliope was such an unexpected counterpoint to it all. But all of these attributes paled next to the performance of Ms. Warden as she bit deep into her cataclysmic lyric. Making this a very powerful breakup song. I am now strongly pining for a 8:22 Razormaid remix of this. Someone call Art Maharg on the Monk-Phone™!
As I had surmised, the track “Blue [World Of Blue]” was radically different from the “Blue [Love Mix]” on the old “Vicious Pink” compilation LP. The lyrics that made of it a different song were no longer there in its new instrumental form, and the track was much less aggressively recorded than the Love Mix. The heavy beat was nowhere in sight and string patches and light percussion carried this one as a glittery and melodic “soundtrack version” of the melody from “CCCan’t You See” repurposed into new life here. It was almost a minute longer than “Blue [Love Mix]” and was a perfect bit of contrast coming after the blood and thunder of “Baby It’s Too Late.’
That was the end of side two and these songs were fantastic! Hardly also-ran material. Side three took a sidestep into demo material. “Why Me” was a more minimal vision. Exactly the sort of Minimal Synth material that might have gotten MinimalWave’s interest in this project to start with. But “8:15 To Nowhere” was a different train entirely in this longer, yet more minimal style. The snare programming hewed even closer to the train rhythm ideal more explicitly.
“Baby It’s Too Late [Demo]” dialed down the intensity and lost the funkiness that I enjoyed so much on the final version. But it had a hypnotic quality missing from the more aggressive recording, thus hearing this was quite different. Sound quality here suggested that maybe a cassette copy had been the mastering source for this track as the sound was noticeably thinner and exhibited flutter. The other demo tracks here were from the Teac reel-to-reel 8-track that Vicious Pink used for their demos and one could hear the difference.
“Fetish”‘ has always been my fave rave Vicious Pink jam, but the demo version here was cut from very different cloth. For starters it’s an instrumental rendition here, with a similar relentless quality that was so winning to my ears. Being more stripped down only served to emphasize this trait. And halfway through its five minute length, the train jumped off the tracks to the accompaniment of ambling, atonal solos which contrasted mightily with the utterly motorik basis of the song to create frissons of dissonant wonder. The breakdown of the solo into squeals and trills at its end was certainly far from the norm that fans of this song might expect.
On side four we began with another dark, grinding confection with the demo version of the great “In The Swim!” It was the B-side to their Serge Gaisnbourg cover, “Je T’aime (Moi Non Plus).” This was always one of their top tunes and the minimal demo here walked the fine line between Cabaret Voltaire and Giorgio Moroder, so in other words, Pure Monastic Bliss! The rhythmic panting of Ms. Warden in the coda was a second cousin to Warren Cann’s in “Alles Klar.”
Next there were three more tracks I’d not heard before. “Ask Me To Stay” was in an expansive 12″ mix and we’d yet to hear the 7″ version! This was another of their earliest recordings with David Ball producing, and was fully analog with a great drifting coda for the last minute or so of the song. The very early instrumental “Face Hugger [21st Century 80s]” was a tense early recording with Ball as inspired by the movie “Alien.” Being of a Minimal/Synthwave predilection, it’s barely recognizable as Vicious Pink but was utter Minimal Synth catnip. It was an outlier to a career never further investigated by the group, but still fascinating in its own right.
The last track on the album was another of the tracks slated for “Blue” with Tony Mansfield producing. “Eyes That Smile” would have made a nice deep cut on that album that never was. Here, it functioned nicely as a closing track with its swirling synths complementing its jittery, relentless rhythm programming. But the album had an extra bonus track on the DL version that came with the LP on Bandcamp.
“This Little Heart” was a quirky outlier to the electro-jazz sound favored by Yello on a track like “Koladi-ola!” The walking bass line was at odds with the shrill sustained, minor key string patches straight out of the “Psycho” soundtrack by Bernard Hermann. The sampled horns and strings were joined by a water flowing sample loop that would later manifest in their track “The Spaceship is Over There.”
This was quite a bounty of material. I was happy that after years of hearing about this track and that other track variously “released” on Soundcloud or YouTube during the last decade, they were now finally in one place and assembled into an album that I can now purchase. I could have bought the DL on Bandcamp, but I opted for the LP to hedge my bets. Not only was the album nicely packaged with anti-static inner sleeves of the highest quality, but I have to point out that the 12″ 12 page booklet that comes with the LP was a treasure trove of anecdotal material and interviews with Warden and Moss recounting the stories of their time as a band nearly 40 years ago with great verve.
Stories of the early days where their fortunes were hand in hand with Soft Cell as they met Marc Almond and David Ball at Leeds in college and joined them as backing vocalists long enough to watch them explode in their first year. That’s where I suspect many of us heard of Vicious Pink Phenomena. Of course, David Ball produced their earliest records and did so until it was simply not viable for a band of Soft Cell’s burgeoning nature.
Thanks to that Soft Cell connection, the band was recording in New York City when Ecstasy first appeared on the club scene and they famously recount what it was like to have this pharmaceutically pure synthetic drug designed to make you happy coloring their recording sessions. Elsewhere, the band elaborated on the incident where Andrew Eldritch started making moves on Ms. Warden while she and Moss were a couple; ending up in the hospital after Moss had enough of that. Once they filed the police report, the cops sided with Moss and didn’t press charges!
The facts of the release were amazing. Our breadth of experience regarding Vicious Pink exploded with seven new songs joining the band’s discography. All of these tracks were good. Some were great enough to join the acme of Vicious Pink recordings. “Baby It’s Too Late”in particular was now locked in battle with “Fetish” and “Take Me Now” for dominance in my skull. And the demo tracks were mostly justified in their inclusion. I’m not completely sold on “Why Me [Demo]” as the differences between it and the finished track were not prodigious.
The one regret here was the trashed vinyl source of the “My Private Tokyo” mastering. 90% of this album sounds like it was mastered from professional tapes. One of the demos seems to have been sourced form a cassette copy but even that’s acceptable. Especially if that’s all that’s in hand. But there must be hundreds, if not thousands of 12″ copies of “My Private Tokyo” out there in the world. Surely it would have been worth spending £20-100 to source a better copy [or five] to digitize for a definitive project like this one?
Having bought the album on Bandcamp, one of the perks is that every title bought can come with a CD quality DL through Bandcamp. But when I downloaded the uncompressed files, I heard [and saw] that they were brickwalled. Making them a harsh listen with reduced dynamic range. Not unlike the 2012 Cherry Red CD was also at the time. So in buying the LP I was hedging my bets for salvation in vinyl since that sort of mastering is simply not viable on the PVC platter. Furthermore, I opted for the black vinyl LP over the more ideologically correct neon pink pressing, since I’ve heard that modern colored pressings have sound quality issues compared to standard black. Which is ironic, since in the 70-80s, black vinyl was often recycled, making the colored vinyl records of that time virgin pressings and therefore of higher quality.
The LP arrived a week or two after I had the DLs, and the shipping could not have been more perfect. The LPs were in black anti-static sleeves, placed outside of the heavy sleeve to prevent seam splits and the whole shebang was ensconced in a PVC outer sleeve; not shrink wrapped! If only every LP I had to purchase could be like that! I saw a sticker proclaiming that this was a GZ Media pressing and my heart stopped momentarily. The now 10,000 LB gorilla of record production is notorious for their widely variable quality control issues. I see comments all over the map on their ability to make a record. The known GZ pressings I have were Mint records that were so noisy that they played like VG on first blush!
It took me a few weeks to have the time to play this album. Vinyl is such a hassle, but when I did digitize the LP to join my other Vicious Pink tracks from 12″ and LP on the hard drives, I was gifted with the best pressing I’ve ever heard from GZ. This was a perfect new LP! The waveforms I viewed in my track editor showed full dynamic range, so my rips will be more friendly to my ears than the DL was. Meaning that if you love this band, and want to hear all of those songs that never made it to release from 35 years ago, and want the best quality sound possible, you absolutely want to buy this on LP while the 999 copies of it are still available and affordable. I would prefer a great sounding CD of this band but in 2022, this is what we have to work with. I’ve been digitizing all of my VP collection to make that BSOG I’m compelled to make with every last shred of this group on 4-5 discs. Join us in 10 years once I snap and finally get that “Maniac” Euro B-side, and the promo mix of “My Private Tokyo!”
Don’t forget to join us in 24 hours for the online release party for “West View” as hosted by DJ Paul Dakeyne with Brian Moss in the studio with him and Jose Warden participating in some other capacity. It can be watched live without a Twitch account, but if you have one, then it can be viewed on demand on Paul Dakeyne’s channel. It’s been gratifying to have this band expand their presence in the world with this album. Particularly as it showed that the cult band had plenty more to offer beyond their scant few singles. Click the banner to watch the show.