The New Punk Rock

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I didn’t want to like Chicks on Speed (CoS). Perhaps it has been the scant, but not-so-favorable reviews that have kept me away, one of them printed in this very publication. The international art-school trio behind CoS is, yes, gimmicky. Often relying on producers for songwriting, the band’s true skill lies in their attitude over their actual ability to play. They mock so many music forms that by the end of The Re-Releases you’re left seriously considering what they might actually listen to themselves. But they do it with style and, yes, talent — talent for technological trickery if not a planned (or inadvertent) astute cynical presentation of the discrepancies today’s younger generation faces daily.

Consider the Fall. Within Mark E. Smith’s career, he has used and abused all that technology has had to offer with each given album; he’s gone retro in his own way by covering Lee “Scratch” Perry, as has CoS with its homage (?!) to B-52s and the Normal; he’s spoken his mind to the point of lambasting Disney with the same venom that CoS have mock-endorsed Macintosh; and his world-outlook has amazed many that he still chooses life, while CoS seem to be taking it all in as if the group were privy to the punch line of a joke yet to be told. Throughout, no one has stated that Smith is an excellent musician.

In the same way, and in spite of the lack of media attention, the four-year-young CoS are on the path to proving its endurance through sheer guts alone. The sound is not easily described, and is confused even further on the fall 2000 domestic debut, which added remixing and collaging by Ramon Bauer and Gerhard Potuznik. It’s not purely electronics, but neither is it all guitars. The album’s waves of German minimalism, house, straight-up punk rock and patchwork science might easily throw off someone with a genre bias. In reality, however, it’s the perfect mirror looking into the near future of an entire group of world patrons who have become too comfortable in our genres, pristine production and ambivalent politics. Forward movements emerge through chaos. Mark E. Smith knows that. When punk was fresh, The Sex Pistols knew it too. The time of CoS has arrived, and armed with today’s machinery, the band is set out to prove its truth. But why should you lend your ears to it? Because it’s quality entertainment that will send you in alternating fits of hysterical laughter and serious rhythm shuffling.

E-mail Liz Copeland at letters@metroitmes.com.

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