Review: “Human Racing” by Nik Kershaw (Vinyl, 1984)

Today’s Pop Rescue from a fate uncertain, is the 1984 debut album Human Racing by British singer, songwriter, and producer Nik Kershaw. Will this album get your heart Racing, or won’t It Be Good? Read on…

Nik Kershaw - Human Racing (1984) album
Nik Kershaw – Human Racing (1984) album

This 10 track LP opens with a flurry of synths of third single Dancing Girls. The song brings in layers of dramatic synth stabs and vibraphone alongside the dancing girls. It’s a fairly simple song, and Nik’s voice sounds wonderful pop here, although a little disconnected from the music. The song gave Nik a top 20 hit when reaching #13.

Next up is the hit single Wouldn’t It Be Good? and this was accompanied by a highly stylised and visually interesting video – Nik glowing in his white suit amongst a 1940’s themed backdrop, who then gets visuals superimposed onto his white suit. This, alongside it being an absolute masterpiece, gave Nik his first hit – reaching #4. The electric guitar and horn section sound fantastic, as do the vocal harmonies, as the song effortlessly flows along. Perfection.

Drum Talk is next, and yes, the ‘drums’ do talk eventually although I’m not sure what they’re saying. The track is aptly packed with drums and various percussive instruments, and it really gallops along with Nik also putting in some great big vocals alongside them. It really is a foot tapper and injects a burst of energy into the line up.

That’s followed by Bogart, which opens with some kind of metal percussive sound before giving over to vocals with an electric guitar that growls along like a loyal dog. ‘Talk to me Bogart‘ Nik sings, although I’m not sure what he needs Bogart to help him with. Still, it’s a nice enough sounding song, with plenty of interest in the vocal performance and guitar work.

Side One closes with Gone To Pieces, and this has a really nice tempo, plenty of bursts of brass, vocal effects, and some wonderful guitar. There’s almost a disco feeling pulsating through this song, alongside some guitars that sound like they’ve been borrowed from Nile Rodgers. The wall of sound vocal harmonies in the chorus really belt out well. This is a great ending to the first half.

Side Two opens with Shame On You, and a deep breath before throwing in a ton of scat lyrics (no, not that sort), percussion, and a funky bass. Nik slides in with his lyrics, and the backing track is slightly distracting from Nik’s lead, but it layers nicely.

Some lovely sounding synths plunge us into Cloak And Dagger, followed by some more funky bass and synths as Nik sings over the top. I’m reminded a little of Kraftwerk (think Pocket Calculator) meets Mario Land 2, before Nik’s chorus vocals belt in, or the electric guitar arrives. The synths are the main appeal here for me though.

Faces is next after a dramatic sound, and then some odd sounding almost vocal drum, and mournful guitar. Nik is soon on the mic with some delicate yet downbeat and reflective vocals. He’s joined by some synths that sound like they’ve been borrowed from Limahl, and the choir part really is a wonderfully unexpected section.

Penultimate track is the huge hit single for Nik – I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, which stood as the lead single, but stalled at #47. The track scored a re-release seven months later as the fourth single, which took it to #2 instead. From those first few notes, it’s obvious what’s coming, as it’s a staple of the 1980’s compilation album. The track really does effortlessly bounce along and Nik’s vocals are sounding wonderfully clear and strong. Every note and performer is brilliant here.

The album closes with the titular track and fifth single, Human Racing. It vocally sounds somewhat like Stevie Wonder is on the microphone, due to the high soaring register, but no, it’s Nik over a soft drum machine. This final single reached #19 in the UK, and I think that it hits a slightly different style than the other singles here, and this perhaps was reflected in its success.

Nik Kershaw’s lead single ‘I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me’ (1983).

Verdict

Over all, this album is a really great collection of early 1980’s synth pop songs.

As a debut, it is a really strong album, and one that rightly led to him finding success with it. The singles, Wouldn’t It Be Good, and I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me are absolutely flawless, but it’s sad that Gone To Pieces didn’t make it as a single too. Even Drum Talk would have been good.

There are weaker songs here – but nothing to dislike, but choosing the weaker Dancing Girls and Human Racing for singles feels like a slight mis-step, and this was reflected in their chart performance.

Nik Kershaw’s lyrical skills shine here, as do his arrangement and performance skills as a musician too. This is a great 80’s album, and you really should give it a listen.

Rated 4 stars - You're missing a treat!
  • POP RESCUE 2022 REVIEW RATING: 4 / 5
  • 1984 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #5, certified Platinum by the BPI.
  • POP RESCUE COST: 78p from a Discogs.com seller.

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