We've had to wait a year for Lick Your Ticket
, which was released in the UK in 2004. And boy, have we missed out! These five cheeky Bristol lads indulge in electro-rock reminiscent of Add N to (X) and Satisfact, but maintain a crisp punk bite. There are enough catchy melodies and sharp hooks to string up the most stringent of music snobs. Dig a bit deeper into these twelve tracks and the subtle electronic nuances, carefully layered changes and imaginative songwriting prove that there's much more to Lick Your Ticket
than simple gratification.
Lick Your Ticket was produced by Steve Osborne (known for his work with New Order) and mixed by Alan Moulder (NIN and Depeche Mode), so its electronic connections never get their wires crossed -- the group's swarm of keyboards meshes well with the mixture of human and machine-created drumbeats. Before you get all squeamish about cheery synthesizers and perfectly timed beats, take note: Chikinki treat their keyboards the way Pete Townsend treated his guitars (and amps): they're beaten, abused and squeezed 'til every last note is drained from their ivory keys. Chikinki's music may have an electronic edge, but they're still a nasty, mean and spiteful English rock band.
Maybe it's a bit of a cliché to head straight for the single, but it is the opening track, and a damn fine one at that. "Assassinator 13"'s buzzing guitar line contrasts sharply with the twinkling synth notes and Rupert Browne's Iggy-flavored vocal contortions. A bloated, bass-heavy keyboard line makes its presence known as the band calmly navigates through the verses, but the bridge and wicked sing-along chorus make the band's presence known in the heavens. Give it a listen or two and you'll fall victim to its maddeningly good sounds.
The quintet follows "Assassinator 13" with plenty more musical muscle. The airy "Ether Radio" and rough 'n' tumble "To Sacrifice a Child" are right on target, mixing retro-hip '70s rock with the crack-rock-steady of Aphex Twin. However, it's "Hate TV" that steals the show. It's an electronic minefield of plodding, synthesizer-heavy tones that alternate between throbbing, bulbous bass and the clickity-clack of PC speaker jargon. Browne soulfully sneers, "My computer makes a fool of me, it spits me out, half-naked," like a post-modern philosophizing android. A sinister keyboard line mimics the verses, and then a rousing guitar riff takes center stage and gives up its very soul for a moment in the rock 'n' roll spotlight. It's a sweaty, dance floor-ready shakedown that's sure to leave you sweaty and shaking.
While Lick Your Ticket would do just fine as a non-stop rush of upbeat electroclash, Chikinki modulates the pace, seeding in several slower numbers that make waves without the overt sonic outbursts. "Bombs" and "Staple Nation" are heavy acoustic guitar abusers, with quietly but firmly strummed chords guiding Browne's hushed vocals. "Bombs" howls without ever raising its voice, while "Staple Nation" eventually bombards us with a deep-set bass tone. The keyboards on "Forever" sound like a trickling electronic stream working its way across an anonymous Martian landscape. It's the sort of thing you'd expect to see if Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles came to life before your eyes... as a musical.
It's great stuff, but be warned: it's not an easy or immediately accessible listen. It takes time to comprehend Chikinki's warped musical output. There are a few easy audio teasers to will draw you in, but it'll take a few serious sitdowns before you can finally get up and shake your thing to Lick Your Ticket.