Live Music + Gig Reviews

Chikinki @ Cargo, London

19 February 2004

Bristol boys Chikinki have created a stir with their supposed seedy mix of electronica and rock n roll swagger. Their debut self-released LP brought them to the attention of Island, and they’re now living it up live and in the studio, spending some serious money on bigging up the garage. Their recent single release Assassinator 13, however, disappointed – hinting at invention they’re just not hitting. The video was impressive though, spliced with change and spasm.

Hoxton’s Cargo is a fitting venue as they headline XFM’s remix night. The girls swoosh around with long fringes and black kohled eyes, and the boys are beautiful with a pint and cigarette.

Chikinki keep the crowd waiting, but there’s not much buzz or anticipation. The crowd is dancing to revved up Rod Stewart and are happy getting drunk. But the minute the band walks on, after an extended technical delay, the crowd are with them, staring at these pretty young boys, swaying slowly to the start of the set.

It begins with simple voice and guitar and rambles into a louche effort at rock n roll. The song is good, but the sound isn’t – the guitar sounds tinny, and I’m longing for some filthy swagger to hit me but it’s not forthcoming. And where is the electronica? I can hear some squeeky synths, but is that it? Frontman Rupert is giving it some however and gyrates charismatically, moving the audience to anticipation.

The promise does not pay off however, and in Like It Or Leave It, which starts with very pretty, simple guitar chords and dual drumming, the tune is lost. Bad sound or just not a good song – I’m unsure and still we’re waiting. But still Rupert remains lively and jumps into a small mosh, hoping to be lifted back on to the stage in time for his next line. He misses it by a beat, but hey, it’s cool.

The next song nearly realises driving funk punk pop but again, there’s little cohesion of noise. It sounds blurred and messy. Then a song I thought was called Like To Fuck (but perhaps isn’t) takes us to another level and the sound people finally have it sorted. The guitar sounds grindy at last and the soaring chorus Oh I love her so, I need her so” hits home with a passion. There’s some discord which works well now you can decipher it and even the singer reckons he’s getting somewhere.

13 is about sex and drugs, “what’s the answer in your pill?” and the Stones-like riff is rocking with the thumping bass and rolling vocal. The keyboard player even looks like he’s getting into it as he starts mishandling the synth, but I want him to throw it about a bit, smash it up, smash it up! But of course he doesn’t and I’m disappointed.

The final track reaches a crescendo and is the most interesting song of the evening. It’s rhythmic and moving, pounding and chasing. Morphing into a punk pop dream of weird synth sounds and jarring discord. This is what I’d hoped for, but it’s come a little too late.

Chikinki are selling a brand of electronica they’ve not yet mastered. They are an indie band with synths. To produce songs of interest, beauty and rock n roll takes more than just hitting random synth sounds you hope pitches an oddness. And what of the filth? They need more Stooges, more Velvet Underground, more seediness. The hint at the end of the set intrigues however, and there is a vague hope that they’ll get there.

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Chikinki @ Cargo, London