Kiss the Lips of Life

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As first envisioned, Brilliant was a promising act: a more soulful take on the aggressive funk-rock of Killing Joke, led by ex-Joke bassist Youth. But after being signed to a major label (WEA) and getting the star treatment, which included being matched with the ultra-slick production team of Stock, Aitken & Waterman, Brilliant came up with a generic pop-dance album that fell well short of the original concept. What aggression there is comes courtesy of Jimmy Cauty's metallic guitar solos; the sterile synth whitewash of SAW dominates the rest of the mix, and vocalist June Montana isn't strong or distinctive enough to fight through it. There are certainly entertaining moments -- the jazzy reggae remake of James Brown's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" is a nice idea, livened up by Annie Whitehead's trombone solo, while dance tracks like "Somebody" and the title cut pack enough punch to suggest how much better the album would have been with more organic production. But "How High the Sun" and "Love Is War," the two tracks co-written with Stock, Aitken & Waterman, find Brilliant buried under the soulless SAW disco beat that would soon dominate the British charts, albeit via other performers. And the album closes with a synthed-up cover of the old chestnut "The End of the World," which is less bad than puzzling. Kiss the Lips of Life remains a historical curiosity, thanks to the future work of Cauty (KLF, the Orb) and Youth (who'd go on to make a house album with none other than Paul McCartney). It's just too bad there's not more to show for the group's less-than-brilliant career.

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