London Highbury Upstairs At The Garage

[a]Chicks On Speed[/a] prove that the perfect postmodern pop band still exists on paper only.

Art means never having to say sorry for being crap. For artists, the means justifies the end. The eternal justification for the perpetual underachiever is to arch an eyebrow and say: “It’s art! You just don’t understand!”

[a]Chicks On Speed[/a], however, are all too easily understood, not least since what they do is so familiar. Is there anybody out there who really thinks recontextualising punk’s rebellious strictures into bubble gum pop is a particularly radical thing to do any more? Because that, for all the mashed-up, pouty ferocity that propels their Toytown techno assault, is the familiar core of the [a]Chicks[/a]’ schtick. This is Eurodisco gone to hell, a kind of digital softcore, megabyte-sized sloganeering from three smart cookies who know which buttons to press on the cybernetic interface in order to attract maximum attention. Oh, and they make their own clothes. Well done.

[a]Chicks On Speed[/a] want to smash cosy ghetto-pop conformity. Commendable. It’s just a shame, then, that Melissa Logan stumbles her declamatory opening manifesto like all the trembly kneed indie-schmindie losers she and her comrades so vehemently disavow. True, you can’t fault them for commitment. One after another, the sugar-coated dumdum bullets fly, but the spectacle of Melissa, Alex Murray-Leslie and Kiki Moorse striving so very, very hard rather blows their cool. On record they make a sassy racket, yet live ‘Glamour Girl’ is made to feel positively workmanlike. The chaotically thrown shapes and stage moves feel over-rehearsed. It’s all strangely unsatisfying.

And what, ultimately, is the extent of the [a]Chicks On Speed[/a] revolution? [I]”We shop more than other people!” [/I]they chorus, [I]”but we don’t play guitar!” [/I]Well, that’s right, they absolutely don’t. [a]Chicks On Speed[/a] have liberated themselves from that evil wooden-plank cock substitute. Hoorah! Expect shop assistants the world over to down tools any minute. The undisputed highlight of the set, ‘We Don’t Play Guitar’, still makes Shampoo look like The Slits in comparison.

Here they are, then: three grrrls, multinational, sexy clothes, fucked-up beats, loads of shouting and a name that mentions drugs. Where could it possibly go wrong? Art or fart, [a]Chicks On Speed[/a] prove that the perfect postmodern pop band still exists on paper only.