With a band name that gives a sly wink to the sanctity of language - in conversation, my friends are pretty much reduced to just saying "chikchikchik" - we have what some in the scene are calling the best of the post-punk revival scene, others an anti-climax in the "no-wave" scene. This 7-piece band out of Sacramento, California sounds like a disco-funk mix of The Clash, Madness, and Echo and The Bunnymen. Make way, make way!
Now I don't claim to be an expert of the post-punk or new-wave scene, but I do know that it hasn't caught my attention since the '80s. I listen to those 3 bands I've mentioned above. To avoid arguments about labeling and genres - for example The Madness are also labeled "two-tone" and a label that's new to me, "no-wave", defies me - I'm just going to talk music. Now the Clash and Madness have obvious influence from the reggae and dancehall scene. No, no, no. I can put it much simpler than that. Basically Afro-Caribbean music, black music, was a big influence on punk music. Not so ironic considering how a lot of punk has often been associated with politics, topics never dropping far from the civil rights tree. Very ironic in how the musical outsider uses the punk label to sometimes include the aggro music of skinheads and racists. Needless to say, this is a contentious point that occasionally leads to a bloody nose on the part of the ignorant.
Now Echo and The Bunnymen are less influenced by black music, and sound less influenced. But they are relevant because of their move away from the angry riffs right after the iconic British punk sound established by The Sex Pistols was losing wind. They turned towards being emotional and being melodic and proved the inheritors of punk could lament or be psychologically tortured by the human condition, not just the political one.
When you listen to this album, you will find yourself grudgingly admitting that they do sound like a mixture of The Clash, Madness, and Echo and The Bunnymen, even if it pains you, as it pains me, to connect their name too easily to chikchikchik. This pretty much describes the sound of the album in its entirety, even down to the way the lyrics are sung. To single out and describe individual tracks for details of the listening experience would be a waste of my time and yours. Therefore I will cover it in general.
Returning to the black music influence, jazz and good old Motown funk make up the greater part of their inspiration as opposed to reggae or dancehall. Sometimes I even think I hear a little bit of Earth, Wind, and Fire in there. Perhaps as a reflection of their more modern birth, chikchikchik are also inspired by hip-hop. True to old funk form, some of the tracks go past 6 minutes, - ?Space Island? clocks in at 9 minutes and 2 seconds! Chikchikchik will ramble and improvise over their basic theme just like an old school live funk band. The politics are there, with the scatological ?Schitscheissemerde (Part 1)? bandying references to Blair and Bush.
My favorite tracks are ?Hello? Is this Thing On?? and ?Me And Guliani Down By The Schoolyard.? The former catches my ear because, of all the tracks, when you listen to this one, you will see the strongest similarity to the bands I have compared them to. Though they are supposed to be American, the vocals are sung very Clash style including an accent that could be mistaken for British. It?s plain funky, and highlights include a cheesy saxophone solo and bongo drums. This is one of the tracks that just plays around with itself for over 7 minutes.The latter track is the most electronic, and just has this cool steel drum band feeling without being a steel drum band. I know that makes no sense but I hope you get the idea. I just have this bizarre picture in my mind of an idealized Tiki bar in Jamaica, built by the mind of an insane Clash fan, under the effect of one very big doobie.
Overall, I just don?t know where to stand on this album, so I?m going to stand firmly on the middle. It doesn?t get its hooks in me, but I can certainly appreciate the funk of it. These guys must be amazing live. Any and all Clash, Madness, and Echo fans should give this a listen at your local store, or borrow a friend?s copy who has already made the leap and make up your own minds. 5/10 -- Munir Remahl (25 May, 2005)