Kim Wilde – “Cambodia”
Mark S says:
Writing a chart-song with this title in 1981 – Year Zero was 1978, as punky types (=me) liked boringly to remind everyone – sets some kind of dunderhead record, you’d think, for chutzpah, hubris and just not getting it. But of course “just not getting it” is what the song turns out to be about – avoidance of knowledge, self-deluded cocoonment, the SCREAMING WOUNDED ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM – and pretty blonde Kim, with her cool expressionless nu-pop voice, was the ideal no-baggage vehicle. Born to the purple of the manufactured-hit family trade, she tells the story as if with minimal involvement: did it happen to HER? A “friend” Is she just the reporter/newscaster/bored raconteur at a party she’s not enjoying? The template is “Cool For Cats”, pumping bop-bip synth octaves, the ghost of Squeeze’s little cartoon cocknoid suburban tragicomedy shtick frozen down into desperate-housewives nembutal coping haze, Kim’s freon-based glide a forerunner of the Cocteaus/Lush/Goldfrapp bliss-hook, except (as regards storyline) with extra vivid if unexplained justification (the rather excellently terrible vintage pic sleeve – done cartoon-strip fashion by Rod Vass- hints that her husband pilots a Vietnam-style green insecticopter): “She didn’t wonder then/She didn’t think it strange/But then he got a call/He had to leave that night/He couldn’t say too much/But it would be alright” — What’s his mission? DON’T ASK DON’T TELL: “He used to cry some nights/as though he lived a dream.” Every question the tale demands, the music – Kim’s distracted and disinterested delivery tone, the sprightly know-nothing new wavey hummed chorus – leaves wide open, so open you can’t help sketching in every last semi-plausible scenario for yrself. “He used to fly weekends/It was the easy life…” The plasticised percussion includes a nice little whip swish, and he was “Thailand-based” — what kind of dreamsex Emmanuelle-style colonial utopia was this “easy life” exactly? And then at the end, the echo-drenched “White Horses” style reverie switches the feel back to kid-lit romanticism,. the nostalgising of being allowed not to be in the (adult) know.
The unspoken possibilities overwhelm the often trite words, the gumball-trinket form, setting and melody, and THIS EXPRESSIVE INADEQUACY what the song is about: the realisation that triteness is all many of us will have to hand when horror strikes.
Curious revealing sidenote: the lyrics as available on the net all end song as follows: “But there is only one thing left/I know for sure/She won’t see his face again” —well, there is one thing left *i* know for sure, and that is that kim actually sings “she WILL see his face again”: proof maybe that what the all-knowing affect-free carefully euphemising narrator means is (as witness the entire web’s affirmation): HE IS DEAD AND SHE DAREN’T FACE HOW OR WHY…