Chicks On Speed Will Save Us All: The Wire Review, April 2000

Chicks On Speed
Will Save Us All!

Saviours  of  mankind?  Chicks  On  Speed According to the flightier elements of the consumer press, Chicks On Speed currently represent 'the future of pop music'. But despite the fact that this is exactly the kind of expansive, over-excited and fundamentally meaningless bollocks that keeps these borderline morons in urban leisurewear, rein in your contempt for a moment - there's an element of truth in the claim.

For a start, it doesn't take a genius (any Spice Girls fan or major label marketing apparatchik will do) to work out that the future of pop music will somehow manage to find a place for presentable young women endowed with that easily applied and quasi-fictious commodity known as 'attitude'. And Chicks On Speed, as their knowingly dumb-but-smart moniker proclaims, couldn't have shaped themselves more effectively for that familiar spactacular role. Not to mention the fact that the future is bound to see the line between commerce and ideology - always a fine one in pop music - further blurred, not least by products like Chicks On Speed's nifty line in patent paper dresses, available to punters, disciples and commodity speculators at a recent London gig for no less than 80.

And the music? Well, nowadays, nobody expects the future of pop to sound like anything except its past - hey, it ate itself, remember? So, Chicks On Speed score here, too - their particular diet having clearly been New Wave synth pop (1978-84). Nobody else seems to be regurgitating that particular epoch at the moment, which is close as pop gets to originality - hence those glossy magazine features.

Exhibiting textbook postmodern insouciance, Chicks On Speed are happy to signpost their influences clearly. Their album is littered with cover versions - "Give Me Back My Man" by The B-52s, "Warm Leatherette" by The Normal, "Kaltes Klares Wasser" by Malaria!, "Mind Your Own Business" by Delta 5 - whose pinsharp digital fidelity will do little but bemuse those familiar with the originals, but whose presence, one assumes, is intended to lend a bit of historical urgency to the radical project proposed by a dayglo banner title like Will Save Us All!.

The problem, though, in sharp contrast to, say Atari Teenage Riot, is that there isn't any real urgency here. The presence of Viennese dance producers like Christopher Just and Gerhard Potuznik delivers crystalline clarity and a pristine sheen which is only occasionally enlivened by artful doses of robotic pitchshifting and sporadic snippets of wayward sample texture. But rough edges, breatless naivety, loudness, distortion, all those vital signifiers of engagement and passion - these have been diligently removed to leave a product devoid of rough surfaces, suppyling only an arch, ironic detachment which occupies a zone only a hair's breadth away from out and out kitsch.

Lyrically, there's a similar frustration. "Glamour Girl" is typical of the self-penned material: "She's a glamour girl, she stands so still/Wears a feather bra, her hair's so high/It starts to sway when she brushes her teeth/Five times a day/Burlesque attitude, nighttime thrills/She's a glamour girl and her look just kills/Beware of her kiss she'll suck you in/Five times a day."

This is neutral to the point of being vacuous - almost meaningless - and it's the same story with tracks like "Little Star" and "Yes I Do!". There's nothing wrong with being meaningless, of course - unless you're claiming to offer more than that. And Chicks On Speed have promised to Save Us All!

So, judged by the standards of pop music - that is, by the standards of the slickly packaged consumer commodities that have been trooping in and out out of the charts for the last 40 years - Chicks On Speed have put together a pretty good product. Maybe they really are the future of pop music. If that's good enough for you, you know what to do. But with music like this, they're not going to save anyone from anything at all.


Copyright © 2000 The Wire. Reprinted with permission.

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