Long forgotten by most casual listeners and long traded on scratchy too fast/too slow mp3 among fans like contraband, Kirsty MacColl's debut has been out of print in its original ordering for a good thirty-one years now. One reason for the apathy this album has been shown could be the fact that if you take this album out of the equation Kirsty's transition from '79's 'They Don't Know' to '83's 'Terry' is seamless, so what variety could be missing? 'Desperate Character' actually serves as a strange and unpredictable blip between Kirsty's stints with Stiff.
Unlike later works, this album is almost inconsistent due to Kirsty 'trying on' numerous vocal styles but not necessarily in a negative way. The defining word would be 'pub rock' but that term callously glosses over the mock-reggae cover of 'Just One Look', the sleazy, boozy horn sections of 'Teenager In Love' and 'The Real Ripper', the infectious Joe Jackson-style new-wave slam of 'Falling For Faces' and, of course, those beloved 60's girl-group harmonies scattered liberally throughout.
'Desperate Character' features some wonderful moments of pure-pop Stiff Records-style with iconic rockabilly rave 'There's A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop...' but also includes lost single and instant classic 'See That Girl'; a real shining moment in Kirsty's earliest work with a savvy lyric, angelic harmonies in spades and a piano that just keeps on spiralling. Cap this with the high notes of 'Hard To Believe', another throwback that's so good Polydor slapped it onto the backside of 'Chip Shop' as a bonus b-side.
There's even more highlights with 'Until The Night' which screams 80's saxophone, but is also incredibly sweet and nostalgic; I can't decide whether the lyric could have been Brian Wilson's or Tom Waits' at 'Closing Time'(!) 'He Thinks I Still Care' is covered in daft tones, fading out to Kirsty firing sassy protests amidst a cheeky nod to 'Blue Moon' while tongue remains firmly in cheek for 'Teenager In Love' as Kirsty takes the guise of teenage ingenue off her face on tequila: These carefree moments of frivolity weren't really touched on again until 2000's masterwork 'Tropical Brainstorm' which is a hopeful sign that Kirsty was having a hell of a time here too.
'Desperate Character' is well worth a visit, a revisit and then another one for luck; for a fiver I'm not hearing excuses - thirty-one years should tell you this album is anything but ten-a-penny. I can't guarantee you'll love every second (there's one or two I rarely visit...) but I can guarantee it will charm you with an armful of new favourites so sumptuous you'll break the 'REW' button on your stereo/laptop/ipod. Years after the fact dues and justice are finally being paid (thank you USM!) and 'Desperate Character' is a vital missing piece that you've been without for far too long.
Four stars for the album, five stars because this superb slice of pop is deservedly back on the racks.
Here's to the One and Only: Kirsty MacColl.