We are all, by now, uploaded humans.
This has happened remarkably quickly. It really isn’t long ago that it would have seemed some combination of weird, sinister and ridiculous that we would, quite willingly, broadcast real-time data of our whereabouts, our purchases and our interests, to who knows where and God knows who; that all of us would carry about a doomsday device with which we could, with a few misjudged or malicious keystrokes, destroy our own social and professional lives, or those of others; that we would have sowed into an opaque electronic cloud millions of words articulating dreams, desires and fears that we would not dare whisper to the people we know best.
Chicks on Speed’s “Uploading The Human” wonders – and wonders, importantly, to an irresistible deadpan melody and a sumptuous disco backing – where this might end. It is an apocalyptic lullaby speculating that the logical conclusion of our migration from the corporeal to the virtual might be, as we bleed our planet past the point of revival, to simply hit “send” on our own species, in the vague hope that we might somehow be subsequently retrieved.
“Uploading The Human”, produced by the Austrian DJ and crime novelist Christopher Just, is therefore another demonstration of Chicks on Speed’s animating belief that pop music can – and should, if not must – be about more than the music. Other source material informing “Uploading The Human” includes the EU’s New European Bauhaus initiative, an attempt to make tangible the European Green Deal; the thoughts of Austrian physicist Max Tegmark (“In infinite space, the most unlikely events must take place somewhere”); the writing of American cosmologist Janna Levin, whose search for the sound made by black holes colliding suggests an as-yet-unwritten Chicks on Speed concept album; and “Ornament And Crime”, the peevish but influential 1908 lecture by the Austrian modernist Adolf Loos, a manifesto damning fuss.
“If I want to eat gingerbread,” Loos harrumphed, “I choose a piece that is quite plain, and not in the shape of a heart or a baby or a horseman, and gilded all over.” His views on Chicks on Speed’s signature high-heeled shoe repurposed as a guitar would likely not have been approving.
Chicks on Speed celebrated their quarter-century of existence in 2022.
In no respect has Chicks on Speed’s career been like that of any other group, but in many respects it has been no more or less than what might have been expected to come of an Australian (Alex Murray-Leslie) and an American (Melissa E. Logan) meeting at an art school in Germany (The Academy of Fine Arts, Munich): the droll humour of the Antipodes commingling with the brash ambition of the United States and the Dadaist irruptions of central Europe.
Chicks on Speed have never been confined by music. Any putative career-spanning box set would need somehow to accommodate witty and exuberant excursions into fashion, visual art, books, musical instruments assembled from unlikely components, collaborations ranging from Karl Lagerfeld to Julian Assange to Baroness Francesca von Hapsburg to ORLAN, and a record label operated in the same iconoclastic, energetic spirit.
But as “Uploading The Human” reminds, it’s the music that remains the heartbeat of Chicks on Speed: a refusal to accept that big ideas and startling concepts cannot be communicated through the terse and sprightly medium of pop; a belief, indeed, that it might be the best means of going about it. “Uploading The Human” is an anthem for our future selves to dance to – wherever, and whatever, we may be. (written by Andrew Mueller)
Chicks On Speed “Uploading The Human”
Release date: Thursday, February 23rd 2023
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Photo credit: Julie Ann Noying