wears the trousers magazine


chicks on speed: cutting the edge (2009)
June 24, 2009, 8:09 am
Filed under: album, review | Tags: , , , ,

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Chicks On Speed
Cutting The Edge ••
SRD / Chicks On Speed 

Chicks On Speed are not just any old relic of electroclash, they are essentially an art project. Core members Melissa Logan and Alex Murray-Leslie met at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich over 10 years ago, and have since become the figureheads of a large and constantly changing collective of artists, designers and musicians. In the intervening years since 2004’s Push The Spacebar, the band has been incredibly busy with other creative endeavours, including curating 2006’s impressive Girl Monster (a three-disc collection of underground music made by women) and various installations at modern art Meccas like MoMA in New York and Centre Pompidou in Paris, plus filming projects, fashion collections and building “Objekt Instruments”, homemade noisemaking implements such as the high-heeled shoe guitars for which they humorously include building instructions on one track. It’s all the more impressive that they somehow found the time to make this new – and very long – double-disc record.

The group’s critical reception over the years has been decidedly mixed and it seems to be a case of you either ‘get’ them (like their legions of fans across the globe) or you don’t (like the Red Hot Chili Peppers fans who threw bottles of urine at the band during their Hyde Park warm-up set in 2004). For anyone unfamiliar with electroclash, the art world and outspoken feminists, Cutting The Edge might seem terribly noisy and utterly incomprehensible. The lyrics are incredibly abstract; more slogans and statements than flowing verses. However, it is still possible to appreciate the Chicks’ unique sense of humour. This is particularly evident in tracks such as ‘Art Rules’ (a sequel of sorts to 2003’s ‘Fashion Rules’), where they poke fun at the often fickle and sexist art industry, and ‘The Worst Band In The World’, where they make fun of imitators and, typically, themselves.

Musically, Cutting The Edge largely consists of poppy and upbeat electro, but the Objekt Instruments and art-school aesthetic ensure that an experimental edge is ever present courtesy of some very unconventional noises. For instance, ‘Intro’ opens the album with what sounds like someone hitting a shuttlecock repeatedly, for a few seconds at least, while the aptly titled ‘Scream Song’ layers and distorts the sounds of women screaming for a testing three minutes. Additionally, interspersed throughout the album are a number of short spoken-word and random noise tracks to break things up. The standout tracks tend to cluster on the first disc, starting with the thumping, catchy ‘Girl Monster’ which takes a shot at vacant female popstars, references riot grrl and feminism, and features stiffly Germanic android-like vocals. ‘Buzz’ and the already mentioned ‘Art Rules’ are amusing highlights, while ‘Sex In Der Stadt’ stands out for a different reason as the listener is bombarded by imitations of adverts for sex hotlines. As always with Chicks On Speed, explicit and sometimes crass lyrics are par for the course.

Despite these peaks, it’s impossible to ignore that 24 tracks is a lot to take on and runs the risk of alienating all but their most ardent fans. Restricting it to a single disc – preferably the first – would have made it all the more tolerable. As their back catalogue proves, Chicks On Speed can make themselves more accessible when they want to, but Cutting The Edge is best approached as a work of modern art that will no doubt appear to some to be obnoxious and pretentious nonsense. It’s certainly an acquired taste but not a bad one, in small doses.

Sarah Glover
UK release date: 22/06/09; www.myspace.com/chicksonspeed


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