Lick Your Ticket

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Bristol's Chikinki, who have one of the most "you think you have the pronunciation right but you don't" names around, sound like they want to be several different kind of acts at once -- a dance group, a Britpop act, a punk band -- on Lick Your Ticket, which in itself is no bad thing. Any number of U.K. acts aim at pulling off a hybrid with what's around them, sometimes to success, such as with the Super Furry Animals, the Beta Band, or the Lo Fidelity Allstars, say. Lick Your Ticket is a strange album, though -- it doesn't quite fall down between two (or more) stools, perhaps, but it does have an uncomfortable edge to it that makes it an album to be a bit impressed by rather than to love. It doesn't help that opening song "Assassinator 13" is trebly and tight to the point of being brittle, making Ed East's compressed guitar riff and singer Rupert Browne sound stretched out to breaking point. Both tone and flow improve on "Ether Radio," which also showcases the work of keyboardists Boris Exton and Trevor Wensley more readily, and from there the quintet's work carries on at a steadier pace. Still, part of the problem is that Chikinki's ambitions seem weirdly self-limiting -- it's true enough that there's still visions that dance music of any stripe is somehow invalid (or alternately that anything daring to use familiar guitar chords is too hidebound), but the group's resultant hybrids rarely spark up completely, often standing out from the songs as a whole when they do, as with the striking instrumental break on "All Eyes." Browne's semi-strangled sigh/yelp is easily the least memorable part of the band, Steve Osborne and Alan Moulder's production/mixing work is almost surprisingly arid and clinical at many points, while the band's conception of what electronic equipment can do often (if not always) seems stuck in the mid-'80s. This said, the group has a great grasp of drama, thanks to East's brutally stripped-down riffs (consider the start of hands-down album standout "Scissors Paper Stone" as an example) and knowing when not to play -- the silence and sudden return of the arrangement in "Drink" is truly arresting, the slow-burn build of "Staple Nation" equally so -- while the use of huge, scuzzy basslines shows why the group has since collaborated with the neo-industrial dance freaks of Tiefschwarz. Something truly memorable could yet come from Chikinki, but for now they still seem to be a work in progress.

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