Happy 35th Anniversary to Kim Wilde’s third studio album Catch as Catch Can, originally released October 24, 1983.
In just two years, Kim Wilde had become one of the most promising women in British pop. It had been a swift and heady rise to prominence for the daughter of the English rock veteran Marty Wilde, occurring in the wake of new wave dominance and the inexorable ascent of the New Romanticism method soon to transfix America.
Yet, Wilde was not exclusively bound to either of these factions.
Instead, as Kim Wilde (1981) and Select (1982) attested, the vocalist formed a space all her own between the two sound paths with an engaging electronic rock approach replete with pop hooks. This technique worked swimmingly—at the top of 1983, Wilde had landed a healthy run of charting singles in American, European and English territories.
However, Select fell “short” with only a silver certification in the United Kingdom—Wilde’s largest market—despite its streak of winning charters. Both Wilde and RAK Records, a reputable British imprint, were keen to get her forthcoming third affair back onto an escalating sales trend on par with her gold selling eponymous collection.
Separate from any of the commercial expectations for Wilde’s third album, the singer also wanted to evince artistic growth too. The singer’s father and brother Ricky had scripted and produced her first and second albums which made a mostly male driven rock press suspicious. What began as a minor criticism of Wilde’s involvement in the construction of her output metastasized into an accusation of her being a pop puppet by the time Select wrapped its promotional cycle. Naysayers completely dismissed the fact that Wilde was very present in the determination of what songs were written and made the finished product.
So, when Wilde gave her third LP its ambitious designation, Catch as Catch Can, there was an explicit meaning behind it; the descriptor was defined as “using whatever methods or materials are available.” For Wilde, this rubric was an apt refutation of an underlying critical narrative that just because she wasn’t writing (yet) did not mean that she wasn’t in control. It also stood as an affirmation of Wilde’s commitment to employ whatever aural tools necessary to bring her musical vision into reality.
Excusing the Nicky Chinn and Paul Gurvitz penned “Dancing in the Dark,” Wilde’s father and brother again took up the writing for the set; Ricky Wilde got back behind the mixing boards with assistance from his sister. Per usual, Wilde keeps stride with her family to ensure that the compositions being drafted would fit her. Topically, youth culture (“Back Street Joe”) and gender roles (“Love Blonde”) are engagingly visited; Wilde also leaves a little room for matters of the heart too (“Stay Awhile”). The songs of Catch as Catch Can are cast in an eclectic, metaphorical disposition carried over from Kim Wilde and Select. In this way, the collection felt like a moderate continuance, but it did part from its predecessors sonically.
Synth textures hadn’t been foreign to Wilde and often were used in a supportive capacity to her kinetic rock stylings up to this point. But, they’d never been used so enthusiastically as they were on this long player. From the sinewy groove of “House of Salome” to the score-like expansiveness of “Dream Sequence,” synth-pop served as an effective conduit for Wilde’s songs and her unmistakable singing style. One track did divorce itself from the synth-pop at work on the record, the tongue-in-cheek anachronism “Love Blonde.” An obvious throwback to the snap and swing of 1950s rock-and-roll—a vintage trend to steadily emerge at different points in various genres throughout the 1980s—it playfully stuck out amid the other slick entries on the record.
Starting in July 1983 and concluding in January 1984, three singles were launched from Catch as Catch Can in “Love Blonde,” “Dancing in the Dark” and “House of Salome.” Each of the songs were worthy for selection as singles and maintained Wilde’s established presence in the British and European charts. Their parent recording met a cruel commercial fate when unveiled in late October 1983, however. Amid sluggish sales and mixed reviews, Catch as Catch Can was an anti-climactic finale to Wilde’s RAK Records tenure which finished not long after the LP’s third single had cooled.
Signing to MCA Records in early 1984, Wilde built on the forward momentum of Catch as Catch Can with its successor Teases and Dares in the latter half of that same year. That LP—and the many to come afterward—saw Wilde’s rise not only as a writer, but as a matchless genre stylist all her own.
It all began with Catch as Catch Can, a misunderstood declarative effort upon its initial release, which has since been rightfully reassessed as a significant turning point in the discography of one of the best and brightest in British pop music.