"Oh What A Lush Life, Tampere, Finland, 2001"
Chicks on Speed live at Club Telex, 9 March 2001
(Yo-Talo, Tampere, Finland)
Chicks on Speed are an electronic girl trio consisting of Alex Murray-Leslie, Melissa Logan and Kiki Moorse. They reside currently in Berlin but hail originally from Australia, the USA and Germany respectively. The Chicks met at Munich's Art Academy and their art school approach could be called "multimedia" or plunderphonics. They don't only make music but also graphics for their own releases, for art galleries, their own stage clothes and have many performances worldwide. CoS are working on a project at Fondation Cartier in Paris ("My Messy Room", April 5) at the moment and also a show in New York called Design 21 that will open in May. There the Chix will do the "Trading Post" live in New York and present the new music video "Sell-Out", the official CoS Trading Post advertisement for 2001, and forthcoming single for the CoS second album.
In spirit they are probably closest to the DIY punk/new wave ideals of the 1970/80s, though their brand of music combines electro, hardcore techno, house, experimental and pop. Their first single was a cover of The Normal's 'Warm Leatherette', and they have also done songs from Freiwillige Selbstkontrol (FSK), Malaria!, Delta 5 and The B52's. There are, of course, all those CoS originals such as 'Glamour Girl', 'Turn of the Century", 'For All the Boys in the World", 'Sell-Out' and 'We Don't Play Guitars".
The Tampere Film Festival held in early March 2001 invited them to perform at the "Club Telex" electronic music event held in conjunction with the fest at club Yo-Talo. They also did another Finnish gig at the Helsinki Turbo in Tavastia. The Chicks immensely enjoyed their visit to the sunny, yet wintery, Tampere, checking out some films at the festival, visiting the local Lenin museum and of course going to the sauna and swimming in an icy lake. After hitting the sauna, the Chicks did the obligatory Finnish tradition of rolling in the snow after a steam session and drinking much beer in the sauna... naked!
As the time reached one o'clock on Friday night, the crowd at the Yo-talo club was already bursting with excitement. A lengthy Chicks on Speed video, which had been shown just before their performance, really confused and annoyed some people. It was basically only long cinéma vérite close-up shots of the Chicks backstage at the KPÖ Youth Communist paper 20 year celebration in Vienna last year; the film was made by Tina Frank of Mego. The whole movie was filmed with a wobbly hand held video camera (like Blair Witch) in some acrobatic positions. Confusion is all part of the Chix act intent on subverting people who have gotten used to the cheap & easy entertainment offered to them by multinational music conglomerates, MTV and radio's top 40 lists. Anti-Spice Girls, indeed, as their friend Miss Kittin once called them.
A mechanical vocoder voice that kept insistently repeating "Chicks on Speed" kicked it all off. The start of the show was marred by some technical problems which are always the salt of every decent CoS gonzoid performance. The mantra-like 'Chix Machine' backing track was almost rendered inaudible. The Chicks entered screaming to the trash metal sounds of 'Never Go Home'. Then it was time for a change of mood with 'Glamour Girl', a parody of the cheesiest elements of house music, accompanied by the video filmed in Israel. Appropriately, as the video screen descended it hit some microphones, causing extra noise to the performance.
'Sell-Out/Don't Work, Trade!', the performance/talk show part of the evening followed with Chicks doing some live trading with audiences on stage. They traded with such stuff as an enamel pin by Carsten Nicolai and Alex's white boots ("They are a bit smelly") changing owners, and 'Trading Post' video filmed during Chicks TV performance running in the background. Then they performed 'Lush Life', an autobiographical song about the Chicks' time in Munich: "living in a boring town, where you have to make up for it and entertain yourself", which sounded all too familiar for Tampere locals. Next was the urban nightmare of 'Night of the Pedestrian' (my own favourite) and the CoS re-writing of Malaria!'s early-80s 'Kaltes Klares Wasser', which just reached No. 16 on German chart.
The audience, demanding harder stuff from the Chicks got 'Procrastinator', based on the disturbed life of Japanese female artist Yayoi Kusama. Kiki, usually the most quiet Chick, let out a real trash metal scream-o-rama during the song. Then, they went into the yet-to-be-released 'We Don't Play Guitars' which could be a potential future hit for them. With its guitar-sampling driving rhythm, it combines (ahem) ZZ Top's dancier moments and Beastie Boys style semi-raps. The Americans might well love it. 'The Floating Pyramid Over Frankfurt that the Taxi Driver Saw When He Was Landing' followed and was a surreal girly chant, with pseudo-Krautrock trappings.
Before the encore the girls hid behind a large white banner with the text "We don't have time to save you now! Save yourself, save yourself" held by Club Telex extras. The Chicks then took the stage over again with FSK/Camper Van Beethoven's 'Euro Trash Girl', followed by the Chicks' original 'Yes I Do' done in 1998 with the German band Die Goldene Zitronen. It was then time for the final encore for the sweaty audience as the Chicks were joined by the local Club Telex Noise Ensemble, who jammed together with the ladies doing a (sort of) rendition of the Finnish electronic music classic 'Kaukana väijyy ystäviä'. Kiki's Sherman Filter Bank was joined by vacuum cleaner and cornet. A fitting avantgarde(?) (anti?)climax for the night, which was topped by the Chix shouting their trademark "Never go home! Never go home!" all over the trashy ending.
Chix did their best to confuse Tampere audiences, so this was not your typical rock show. Pre-recorded background music came from a MiniDisc while Kiki messed up sounds live with her Sherman Filter Bank effects box. Alex and Melissa provided unrelenting vocals over the mess, sometimes screaming aloud and jumping all over. They even nearly rapped a bit, yet sometimes sounded incredibly vulnerable.
The strategy of Chicks on Speed is to incite chaos wherever they go. So what if they don't play their own instruments in the traditional air-guitar stadium sense? We've had enough bloated rock stars already. What really counts are the ideas and attitudes behind it and the Chicks have a lot of those to share. That's what punk was all about; everyone can do it, you don't have to be a virtuoso musician. Just get connected and lend your own personality to the game.
Chicks on Speed lend female faces to this type of music usually dominated by nerdy bedroom producers with their "faceless techno bollocks". Unlike the boys who try to impress each other with the sheer volume of their record collections or their instrumental skills, the Chicks don't sweat their technique. Instead of showing off immaculate DJ beatmixing skills or technical studio wizardry the Chicks just do it, which is what makes them brilliant. Chicks on Speed are an inspiration not only to the girls wanting to make it in the male-dominated alt.rock world but to everyone who wants to let their creative juices flow without being afraid to do so. People don't have to have a fear of "lacking skills" or justify their talent to appeal to the messed up ideals of a star obsessed music business. "Yes I Do", the Chicks say, and so can you!
[English version revised by John Fanning, a.k.a. Aristide Massaccesi]
CoS @ Club Telex: some images
Chicks on Speed - The Official Page Chicks on Speed - The Official Unofficial Page @ pHinnWeb