Chicks on Speed

The Re-Releases of the Un-Releases (K)

If you have an affection for '80s music, you'll be either offended or deeply touched by what Chicks on Speed have to offer. On The Re-Releases of the Un-Releases, the Munich-based trio puts the clichés of the Me Decade into an electronic blender and spits them back out as digital punk soundbites. Narrative techno pop in the style of New Order, nonsensical sexy French whispers lifted from Eurotrash trance, and robot singsong à la Kraftwerk meet up in a collage that is punk meets post-postmodern technology. In other words, the Chicks are so DIY they make riot grrl rockers Bikini Kill look about as hardcore as 'N Sync.

Like Bikini Kill, Chicks on Speed have something of a self-created mythology. The three "chicks" -- Australian Alex Murray-Leslie, German Kiki Morse, and New Yorker Melissa Logan -- met at Munich's School of Art. Everything they've produced since has a predictable ironic twist to it, from their early cover of the Normal's cult hit "Warm Leatherette" to their seemingly carefully engineered press appearances. The Chicks aren't just a band: They're also performance art masterminds, visual artists, clothing designers, and entrepreneurs. On a recent trip to the band's Web site, only the "Sellout Store" -- a sort of underground eBay where you can buy tote bags and COS posters -- was accessible.

If you can get past the Chicks' rather heavy-handed image engineering -- which is, admittedly, far more powerful and unpredictable than the machinery behind Britney Spears -- The Re-Releasesis strangely riveting, in a Go-Go's-meets-glitch way. If you're into the politicized techno of Alec Empire or Amon Tobin's sonic bricolage, the Chicks' cut-and-paste antics, achieved with Minidisc players and compact samplers, will feel instantly familiar. Further enhancing the collage effect, The Re-Releases is actually a compilation. Producers Ramon Bauer and Gerhard Potuznick of Vienna's Mego Label, which boasts work by experimental techno dons like Pan Sonic and Oval, have sewn together old Chicks tracks, interview snippets, and live performances into what could be the ultimate punk rock album for the electronic age.

On The Re-Releases, Chicks on Speed reclaim hardcore for the ladies, and the band's finest moments are when it's directing barbs at dance music stereotypes. Backed by a fierce beat, the Chicks sing a girl's ultimate DJ dis. "I couldn't afford your record," says one petulantly, "so I bought these shoes instead. Tell me you like them or I'll kick you in the head."

 
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