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Cutting the Edge

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Album Review

More than four years passed between Press the Spacebar and Cutting the Edge, but Chicks on Speed were more than busy during that time. Their label, gallery exhibits, and fashion shows seemed to take priority over a new album until Cutting the Edge's double-album sprawl arrived, reaffirming that the group's music hadn't gotten lost among all those other projects. Though this is Chicks on Speed's first album as a duo — Kiki Moorse left the band shortly after the release of Press the Spacebar for a solo career — not much else changed in their world; art, sex, dancing, and fashion are still their obsessions. The changes that are here are small but significant. Where the bandmembers used to diss six-strings so much that they wrote a song called "We Don't Play Guitars," Cutting the Edge features "How to Build a High-Heeled Shoe Guitar," a tutorial on transforming a stiletto into a musical instrument. This playful subversion is a welcome change from Press the Spacebar, which often felt strident instead of impassioned. Cutting the Edge includes the single "Girl Monster," which appeared on the band's excellent anthology of female/queer artists of the same name; in a lot of ways, this album is like Chicks on Speed's very own Girl Monster, where they can express virtually every side of their personality. They play with genres on "Super Surfer Girl"'s polluted surf-pop and "Vibrator"'s B-52's and Flying Lizards-loving new wave homage, nod to Neubauten on the mechanical rhythms of "Sewing Machine," and set "Globo Cop"'s visions of violence and megalithic corporations to a jittery, paranoid drone. Their fondness for playful social commentary continues with "Art Rules," which like its predecessor, "Fashion Rules," celebrates and skewers the art world; it might be an insular target, but with lines like "stir in a concept" and "your own exhibition at age 33!," its aim is dead-on. Chicks on Speed delve deeper into what is real, what is fake, and what is art on Cutting the Edge's second half, with mixed results. The clever "Black and White Diva" borrows from Weimar-era cabaret as it ponders image versus individual, but "Coolhunters" and the title track are more about questioning authority and authenticity than being musically interesting. That this is Chicks on Speed's biggest and most eclectic album is a blessing and a curse: it's often as overwhelming as it is fascinating. Cutting Cutting the Edge to its most potent tracks would make it more listenable, but that might be missing the point. Regardless, its best moments are just as smart as Chicks on Speed have been since the beginning.


Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Munich's electronic pop/multimedia trio Chicks on Speed feature former New Yorker Melissa Logan, Australian Alex Murray-Leslie, and Munich native Kiki Moorse. Along with crafting deconstructed, feminist-leaning synth pop, the group also runs Go Records, Stop Records, and Chicks on Speed Records; designs video and print graphics and art installations; and makes and sells avant-garde paper and leather clothing. Appropriate to their arty vibe, Moorse, Logan, and Murray-Leslie met in 1997 at a bar near...
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Cutting the Edge, Chicks on Speed
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