Chi-Pig

Miami

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The old adage goes "better late than never," but with the 25 years of delay between the making of Akron, OH's Chi-Pig's album Miami and its release, one is tempted to say "it's a better world now this has finally come along." Music this good doesn't date, and with the resurgence of interest in once-forgotten currents of American new wave Miami's release seems better timed now than perhaps ever. Chi-Pig -- Susan Schmidt, Deborah Smith, and drummer Rich Roberts -- was the only two-thirds female power trio to hail from Akron, OH, in the late '70s. Chi-Pig's lyrics are funny, honest, and decidedly testosterone-free, their playing is expert, and the songwriting is sophisticated and intelligent. Miami is pioneering '80s pop before its time, a grassroots revolution in itself that wears extremely well even though two whole generations of female pop performers have come and gone since Chi-Pig's number came up in 1980. Miami is so-titled as it was recorded in Miami, FL, back in 1979. By current-day standards a full-length 1979 album runs a bit short, so Chi-Pig have generously filled out the disc with the two tracks they did release on their lone single in 1978 in addition to their cut from the Akron Compilation on Stiff (credited to "Sue Schmidt and Debbie Smith"). The sound quality of the disc is surprisingly good, especially when you consider all Chi-Pig (and restoration engineer Bob Katz) had to work from in making this issue was a two-track "reference mix" with no overdubs or other kinds of production. Frankly, this is a blessing in disguise, as the band sounds on this disc approximately as they did live; production values tended to be so fancy in this period that many a good band was ruined once it went into the studio. That does not happen here. It's easy to overlook the fine contribution of drummer Rich Roberts to the band's sound. Roberts falls right behind the two powerful frontwomen and lays down a groove that fits in so well you don't really notice it, sort of like Ringo Starr's work in the Beatles. Deborah Smith's extraordinary bass work, however, grabs your attention right away -- check out the double-tracked bass solo on "Men." The songwriting on Miami is ultimately what pays the bills -- "Dismal Dismissal" is like a minisymphony made up of little pieces neatly fit together that build into a continuous crescendo. The music itself generates a sense of excitement -- there are no Marshall-amped guitar solos that jump out at you here. The heat and the beat come from the songs themselves, which deal with issues of little or no concern to most male rockers -- malfunctioning appliances, getting involved with someone you plain just don't like, or fat-bottomed girls who, rather than "making the world go around," tend to think the world owes them a living instead. There were only a limited number of copies of Miami made -- obviously this is a project motivated more by love than commerce. It is of interest to anyone who enjoys the classic Ohio underground sound, but Chi-Pig will broadly appeal to any listener who loves good modern pop music. And as there isn't much of that sort of thing getting out these days, perhaps the appearance of Miami does make the world a little better place, in a manner of speaking.

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