Like a missing link that is unearthed hundreds of years after the fact to perfectly bridge the gap between two different species, this best-of album represents the meeting point between glam-rock and new wave. It’s the work of one Nick Gilder, an unsung genius who managed to perfectly synthesize the sleaze, guitars and frilly experimentation of glam to the tight, hooky, synth-layered structures of the new wave sound. In the process, he created some of the most decadent ear candy you’ve never heard.
If you were listening to pop radio in 1978, you probably heard Gilder’s “Hot Child In The City.” The fact that it became Gilder’s one and only hit betrays the fact that most people don’t pay attention to the lyrics of their pop fare – beneath the gently pulsing bass line, AOR guitar riffs and keyboard frills is the dark tale of Sunset Boulevard hustler seducing impressionable young jailbait. Gilder’s fey, androgynous vocals lend it just the right mix of ambivalence and theatricality to send it right over the top.
“Hot Child In The City” was a surprising burst of sleaze into the mainstream and the decadent, slightly menacing tone it offers resonates throughout the rest of this disc: “Runaways In The Night” offers another tale of nocturnal cruising that plays out over a frenetic glam backdrop spiked with spacey synth washes and “Rated X” offers a porn star’s romantic lament dressed up in piano-pounding verses and a snarling, guitar-laced chorus (note: the latter was covered by Pat Benatar on her debut album).
But there’s more to this collection than ear-catching sleaze. Gilder and co-writer/guitarist James McCullough were excellent craftsmen and created polished, carefully structured songs that hold up beautifully. More specifically, they had a distinctive ability to fuse many disparate strands of the 1970’s pop/rock spectrum — glam, new wave, arena rock, hard rock — into a seamless blend and each song presented here displays this chameleonic ability in spades. Even better, their work is aided and abetted by Mike Chapman, the super-producer whose gallery of hits includes the Sweet, Suzi Quatro, Blondie and the Knack.
The Gilder/McCullough/Chapman triumvirate’s combined knack for glossy pop-rock ensures every song is bursting with hooks: “You Really Rock Me” pumps up its new-wave bounce with metallic heft, “All Across The Nation” is a glittering glam-teen anthem complete with hand-claps on the chorus and “She’s One Of The Boys” is a tough-chick tribute built on a hypnotic, circular guitar/synth riff. However, their towering achievement is “Tantalize,” an orchestral, multi-part glam epic that plays like a mini-symphony for the Ziggy Stardust set.
Simply put, there is no dead space on this CD. Listening to The Best Of Nick Gilder: Hot Child In The City is like hearing a greatest hits album from another dimension. Need I say that it is a schlock-rock must?