Nik Kershaw - Human Racing
"Wouldn't It Be Good".
That line, the title of the hit single off this album, says it all really - everything you need to know about Nik Kershaw encapsulated in one line. Wouldn't it have been good if Nik Kershaw had had a decent pop career. How much different things might have been if the diminutive little fellow from Bristol had managed to string together a couple of hits and shape popular music more in his own image. That he did not is a tribute and a testament to the banality of British pop music generally that someone so ordinary, so harmless, so inoffensive as Nik Kershaw never got beyond the one hit. Wouldn't it have been good indeed!
What we have here is light but sophisticated pop from the eighties. It ticks the right boxes when it comes to stating what good pop should be - catchy, melodic and with the right amount of memorable lyrics to make it stick around in your mind after it is no longer playing on the radio. This album, and the first single from it, managed to do reasonably well in the UK in spite of the fact it had to compete with the idiocies of Boy George, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and the rest of the New Romantics. In the cauldron of musical directions which the early eighties were (thanks to the shake up the music industry got from the punks the decade before), Nik Kershaw rose to become one the potential stars. His image was carefully crafted once he signed to a record label but he manage to infuse his music with a degree of originality which was rare in eighties pop.
In the mid eighties, living in Hong Kong far away from any realistic ability to access good innovative music and bombarded by the mainstream, it is not surprising that I succumbed to the temptations the mainstream had to offer. And Nik Kershaw was one of the best things the mainstream had to offer at the time. Well almost. The period in my life which co-incided with the release of this album was the nearest I got to forming a musical identity with the mainstream. And my record collection from this period really shows it! In the end, I backed away from music altogether rather than slip further within the grasp of mainstream pop.
As a consequence of that association, this album is one of those guilty pleasures I have and I don't care who knows about it. Yes, I liked it. I enjoyed it and I was prepared to accept the derision and hoots of laughter I received when I announced that I had bought it. That Nik Kershaw was only 23 cm tall and appeared recently on some silly z-list celebrity try-to-restart-your-career-in-America TV show (which the vocalist from Spandau Ballet, Tony Hadley and Hazel O'Connor were also in) has done nothing to lessen the derision factor. This is basically good, clean guitar and keyboards pop. Nothing fancy, nothing illuminating, and you're not going to find anything deep and meaningful in here (so all you prog rockers can go back to bothering hobbits because Mr Kershaw isn't one of them). However, as the years progressed it became clear that this was as throwaway as previous pop incarnations and today it hardly gets a listen. Having said that, my foot will tap and a smile comes to my face when those opening lines come on the radio or the iPod shuffle.
Sadly for Nik Kershaw, his career never took off and I never got round to any further examples of his work other than this. It remains in my album collection as a one-off purchase. It serves as a reminder of my brief flirtation with the mainstream when the mainstream was all I had. It also serves as a reminder that, like other decades, the eighties had its highs and lows. This album is an archetype - highs and lows are mixed on it. But mostly the lows prevail. Once I found this an appealing album. But it has aged poorly and my personal musical tastes have moved too far away from it for me to recall it with any great fondness.
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