The album—and most especially its two highly influential club singles "Nice Mover" and "No G.D.M."—is ground zero for the combination of cold-wave electro, cocaine-fueled disco sleaze, dark cabaret and genderbending performance aesthetics that would come to dominate the Berlin and NYC scenes during the early 1980s, and then again in the late 1990s. The core of the band was vocalist and lyricist Gina Kikoine, fashionable art school dyke, and writer-producer-musician Zeus B. Held (of Kraut-proggers Birth Control), who met and formed Gina X Performance in Cologne, Germany. Their name was presumably meant to encapsulate the very strong visual performance aspect of their music, as well as the frequently provocative sexuality and transgenderism that was a fixation for the group. Gina's masculine vocals are wry and world-weary, retaining her native German accent, the perfect specimen of decadent, detached, unattainable Eurotrash. Her lyrics are more often than not about her ideals of androgynous beauty, her exhibitionistic streak and her desire to be a homosexual man rather than a lesbian. The lyrics of "No G.D.M." are a musical response to celebrated writer and "stately homo" Quentin Crisp, who frequently spoke of a "great dark man" who was utterly beyond his reach. Gina's vocals are campy, witty and hilarious, but they would be nothing without the slinky, pulsating disco-throb of Zeus, whose marriage of the NYC/Ze Records sound with that of the emerging German cold-wave and industrial scenes resulted in a breathless, minimalist electro sound that has oft been imitated, but never repeated. It's hard to imagine that anyone else in Germany (besides perhaps Nina Hagen, whom Zeus also produced) was doing anything this cool in 1979. "Nice Mover" is certainly my favorite non-Arthur Russell disco side of all time; i was included on Andrew Weatherall's Nine O'Clock Drop compilation, along with The Normal and 23 Skidoo, where it fit perfectly. Tigersushi tried to resuscitate Gina X Performance's reputation with the release of their compilation More G.D.M. a few years ago, but it's taken until now for someone to actually reissue this amazing album on CD. One shouldn't be surprised that LTM is responsible for making this happen, and like all of the label's releases, this reissue includes bonus remixes and rarities, as well as an extensive biography of the group. The only criticism I could possibly offer for the album is that several of the tracks use almost identical rhythm tracks, but with beats this addictive and sexy, that's not really a huge drawback. Listening to Nice Mover again I was amazed at just how much of Gina X Performance's act was "borrowed" by Grace Jones, and more recently by Miss Kittin. Nice Mover deserves to be heard, and it's great to see this influential dance classic restored to its rightful place. These songs have already started to pop up in celebrity DJ sets in NYC, London and Berlin clubs, hopefully displacing all the copyists for good.
And here is where it all started to go wrong. Nearly everything that made Nice Mover an unparalleled new-wave electro classic was inexplicably abandoned in favor of a decidedly more commercial, pop-oriented sound. It's really a very disappointing direction for the group to take, making this album largely inessential, and the next two Gina X albums (due out eventually on LTM), utterly unlistenable. Apparently, back in 1980 when X-Traordinaire was being recorded, producer Zeus B. Held had gotten hold of a new PPG synthesizer and a state-of-the-art sequencer, even working alongside the sequencer's inventor. This new reliance on fancy new technology unfortunately results in a very dated sound for the group's sophomore album, with a hyperactive production style overloaded with "funky" basslines, wokka-jawokka guitars and synthesized brass, snares and hi-hats. Where Nice Mover had a unique signature sound, X-Traordinaire sounds pretty much like everything else going on in European disco at the time. Gina's vocals are still in fine form, but they are uncomfortably shoehorned into tracks that require her to sing faster, more upbeat melodies, and it just doesn't work at all. The only songs that come even close to repeating the first album's successes are "Do It Yourself" and "Opposite Numbers," but they pale in comparison to the genius of a track like "Nice Mover." The opening track "Strip Tease" boasts a playfully provocative lyric, but the painfully white disco-funk sounds like it belongs on a Boney M B-side. "Nowhere Wolf" allegedly samples the howls of actual wolves recorded in the Russian Steppe, but they really shouldn't have gone to all that trouble, as the song itself is quite shitty. "Ciao Caruso" is an interesting experiment, a 10-minute track inspired by murdered Spanish poet Garcia Lorca, that also features samples of legendary opera singer Enrico Caruso, but the track is too cutesy and seriously wears out its welcome long before it ends. Again, LTM does a fine job with remastering, rare bonus tracks and packaging, but they simply can't rescue this album from its own miserable failures. Yet another sad entry in the encyclopedia of sophomore slumps.