In the future, all gigs will be like this. No instruments, no nondescript backing personnel, no banks of grey technology to cower behind. No awkward jamming moments, no plainly average songs and no little imagination. This is what we have: video projections show three women living in a hotel room in Cologne as part of an experiment in social voyeurism. Cut-up human collages flicker on the back wall and in front of three microphone stands, bathed in pink, [a]Chicks On Speed[/a] – by far the best and most exciting group you’ve yet to hear this year – dazzle, confuse and amuse those wise enough to be here.
In the club’s other room, as part of Brighton duo Super_Collider‘s Freekin’ The Frame night, the enfant terrible of music video, Chris Cunningham, DJs his favourite records in his own unique fashion: pre-recorded on DAT so he can chat with friends instead of fiddling with vinyl. Later on, Fridge‘s Kieran Hebden will hustle through busy breakbeats and speed garage, but right now all eyes and ears are trained on the ladies in self-made white leather outfits and their filthy techno-scoured deviant pop sourced from a solitary MiniDisc player and a hand-held sampler.
[a]Chicks On Speed[/a]’s rise to infamy is very much a sign of the times. In 1999 we’ve been let down and sold out by too many of our once-admired heroes. Lazy and predictable music has become a lame excuse for innovation, and when the best album this year has been made by pensioners from Liverpool, you know something’s wrong. Perhaps that’s why scouts from various hip major indies are out in force tonight, desperate to sign the Munich-based trio because they too realise nothing this thrilling or challenging has happened for so long. Plus, with the Chicks, you’d get unbelievable value for money, the whole multi-media package. Credibility via association.
For Alex Murray-Leslie (originally from Sydney), Melissa Logan (New York) and Kiki Moorse (Munich) don’t just do music. They run two labels, Go and Stop Records, make proper, gallery-exhibited art, sell themselves on cable TV, style their own clothes, write comic books and generally flout convention and question society’s foibles in a wilfully sexy, visually stunning and slightly seedy manner. It’s a self-contained, underground, independent and quasi-political Eurotrash revolution: why are we here? What’s the point? That doesn’t matter, they’re saying – just do it. Enjoy yourself, for God’s sake. Don’t worry what other people think.
Hence a set that perplexes as many people as it impresses. How are you meant to react to three women who dance like faulty robots and shout aggressive rapid-fire lyrics about late-’90s cultural ephemera ([I]”Fashion victim on the air/ I shaved off all my pubic hair/Sometimes they think I’m vermin/I’ve got more faces than Cindy Sherman”[/I]) while a dancefloor-directed fusion of deep-fried electro and punk aesthetic snarls from the speakers? You dance, of course, and wonder why no-one’s done anything like this before. If the Beastie Boys were here, they’d think they were in heaven.
In Germany, magazines have already glowingly reviewed their debut album despite the fact there are no plans to release it. Here, the Chicks‘ five singles this year – nihilistic urban masterpieces produced by luminaries like DJ Hell, Christopher Just and Patrick Pulsinger – were snapped up in seconds, fuelling the mystery, but you’ll be pleased to know the glitter house of ‘Glamour Girl’ and ‘Kaltes Klares Wasser’‘s bassbin-shattering judder sound even better live than on plastic.
When are they back? It’s hard to say. With Europe and America also demanding substantial Chicks action, it seems this particularly dynamic revolution could run and run. Be prepared.