Kissing the Pink

Naked/Kissing the Pink

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First off, the name -- the sexual innuendo implied in the band's moniker, Kissing the Pink -- surely races to the surface, but the truth of the matter is that the name is derived from a snooker/billiards reference to a weak shot; the innuendo was just a lucky coincidence. The band certainly lost more than they gained from the cross-referencing. Their music had very little to do with overt sexuality, but that name (coupled with some decidedly unsettling album artwork) didn't help the group's cause with record labels or the general public -- yet those who heard the music before registering the images and name were the luckiest of new wavers in 1983. Kissing the Pink's debut album, Naked, followed in the grand tradition of eccentric art-school collectives like Deaf School -- pulling influences (and members) from all over the map, without a care for fashionability or marketability and, ultimately, giving rise to an album that sounds little like anything else created before or since. Long out of print and scarcely available in the digital realm, Naked was coveted well past its expiration date. Obscure CD releases of the album in Germany and Japan were fetching upwards of $200, and bootlegs were filling the luxury gap in droves. And so, it was with great relief to Kissing the Pink's scattered fans that CD reissue label Wounded Bird stepped up to the plate in 2006 with their edition of Naked -- repackaged with the band's self-titled EP as a bookend. Despite a few overlapping tracks, this two-fer is the best legitimate release any KTP fan could hope for. Cast aside your weathered second-hand vinyl copies -- this is the finest version attainable. The sparse military gait of "The Last Film," the near-pop vocoder jerk of "Frightened in France," and the proto-Boingo bounce of "Broken Body" all jump from the hi-fi with newfound dynamics and sonic strength. There are those who would pooh-pooh the merits of digital technology over the warmth of analog, but this is largely synth-based stuff -- a little cold and clinical to begin with -- and the treatment suits the material better than you'd expect. The epic "Big Man Restless" and the sprawling "Desert Song" throb maximally and serve to remind that engineer Colin Thurston (Bowie's Heroes and, later, Duran Duran) knew how to turn the right knobs. The icy-cold blues swagger of "Maybe This Day" melds the clinical with the cynical while the Talking Heads-channeling "We Are Your Family" (the standout on the included 12") speaks to the potential this band had (had the record labels not pushed them so hard for "hits"). Left to their own designs, Kissing the Pink probably could have carved a bigger swath with their bizarre but danceable collective. As it stands, however, Naked/Kissing the Pink remains the group's best work -- hands down, nolo contendere.

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