Chicks On Speed: Speed Freaks
By Nathaniel G. Moore
searched the world over, for a Euro-Trash Girl.” “Love
her breasts and forget the rest.” Lyrics from “Euro
Trash Girl” and “Glamour Girl” seem like lines
spoken in drunken mumbles at some frat party. But they are actually
a part of a giant fluorescent headband empire known as Chicks
Three former students of Munich’s
School of Art in southern Germany - New Yorker Melissa Logan,
Sydney, Australia’s Alex Murray-Leslie, and Munich’s
own Kiki Morse - have invented a darling potent femme music
It’s that daring paranoid confluence
of the audience member having an Eighties flashback while feeling
completely in the year 2002 that makes catching the Chicks On
Speed in concert a real trip. It leaves the audience practicing
cutesy weirdo dance moves all the way home, hopping around to
anything with a beat. The Chicks On Speed who bring their stylish
mix of music, video art and tarty venom (and cleverly unsubtle
sales pitches everywhere they go).
Originally conceived as an art installation project,
Chicks On Speed have hair-sprayed themselves beyond academia
into a seemingly unlimited statement of fashion and social criticism.
But how serious are they taking this movement?
According to Melissa Logan, “Euro
Trash Girl” is a complex narrative with a comedic storyline.
“David Leurie, more precisely Camper Van Bethoven’s
track, is about a Euro bumming-around guy and is totally self
pitying. This wasn’t written for girls to find each other,
but then we had to turn the poor me-ness into toughness so we
would want to listen to it, so we could have a cool anthem.”
band actually started out as a “fake-band” (this
motif is ever present in their t-shirts which read The Fake
Chicks On Speed) and a merchandising project in 1997. They
sell paper dresses on their website for $86.
The shaking aerobics is part of the
fun, and although second-hand smoke does deter from an actual
healthy exercise, the event itself is pure visual and oral stimulus.
Video projections, re-enforced infomercial video art, and pushing
the product, which is of course the women themselves: all a
calculated flecking of the loud paint-brush of the Chicks On
An empire that consists of a record
label, t-shirts, vinyls, bumper stickers and, of course, cotton
undies. “The fashion we make derives from the stage outfits,
but if we find a good pattern we are likely to screenprint a
batch of t-shirts for the producers, then some scarves for the
web shop and the shops we sell to. We don’t do seasons,
we do outfits: Birmingham, white leather, Bic Camra, Le bon
marche. As for what we wear, we each have an airplane outfit,
and it’s not from H&M,” Logan muses from their
It seems at worst the Chicks On Speed
emulate an Eighties fashion frivolity minced with the occasionally
predictable early Nineties C&C Music Factory monotony. However,
their live presence distorts all the possible musical criticism;
they are so rabid with colours, movement and eclectically distorted
energy you can’t help but enjoy every minute of it. Wardrobe
is a big part of the Chicks On Speed live shows. “I bought
a washing machine last week; I made my friends come and try
to bargain down the price from $220 to $200 with delivery. Not
bad, huh? And yes, when we come back from tour first thing is
to get it all washed so hopefully it’s dry by the time
we have to pack again.”
The Chicks On Speed are as much entrepreneurs
as kareoke media darlings. They have a record company, and recently
put out Feminist Sweepstakes, the new album by the
New York-based band Le Tigre.
Logan says the recording process
doesn’t change their improvised approach to making noise.
“It’s still spontaneous in the studio, one is just
projecting in a different way, one is not reaching to the back
of the concert hall, one is reaching the listener on the other
They’re articulating their
idiosyncratic language by merging performance, graphic design
and feminist/consumerist politics with the seemingly disparate
sounds of early Eighties New Wave/New York CIty, electronica,
DIY punk, disco, pop and Digital Hardcore. And as far as fashion
goes, the Chicks On Speed are trend-setters as much as they
are the fluorescent jesters of indie rock.
In 1999, the NME voted their
first release “Single of the Week”, but does their
fashion speak louder than their sound? “We write a lot
about marketing strategies, about commercialism; sometimes we
want it to sound commercial like in “Sell-Out”.
At the same time it’s a political song (it’s about
systems of ripping off and being ripped off). At the deep-down
basis of politics is freedom, and we are very conscious of freedom
and sometimes the lack of it, and the respect for those who
put out their necks, and revulsion to puppets and sheep, the
sneechers and leachers… we know who you are.”
Judging by their last two releases,
they take stock in their content just as much as their image.
At nearly seventy-two minutes in length via thirty-three tracks,
The Re-releases of the Un-releases claims its plastic throne
as the definitive Chicks On Speed document. Whether it’s
in a live capacity, a silkscreen reproduction or the sound itself,
the Chicks are keeping things fresh and relevant. Their newest
“new” release is the EP Fashion Rules.
“It’s a track that is bitching about snobby high
fashion persons and at the same time is created for them to
use for the shows; it’s got a beat that the models love
to swing their bodies down the catwalk to,” says Mews
Logan. The EP, which is available on EFA Distribution, precedes
their next full-length album due out in the Fall. For more on
shows, new releases and merchandising check out the Chicks On
Speed website and on-line empire at www.chicksonspeed.com.