Review of Sound Of The Westway Album by Chin Chin

Punk Rock wasn't just the Johnny and Malcolm show, much as it might seem that way now; despite its relative brevity and ultimately delivering little that could be classified as musical innovation, more than thirty years later its cultural spores have seeped into mainstream art, media and fashion.

Chin Chin Sound Of The Westway Album

One of its near term benefits was a realisation amongst women that the movement created opportunities beyond providing backing vocals and conventional beauty, an emancipation symbolised by frontwomen suffragettes like Siouxsie Sioux, Ari Up and Gaye Advert.

Punk's embers were still burning in 1982 when all girl trio Chin Chin formed in the town of Biel in Switzerland. Inspired by its DIY aesthetic, Esther, Marie-Anne and Karin of the members couldn't play their respective instruments, but proceeded to fashion a sound which would ultimately be shaped by 60's soul troupes like The Ronettes and the feedback drenched alt.Spector-isms of early Jesus And Mary Chain.

Originally released in 1985, their debut album Sound of The Westway has long since become a rarity amongst C-86 obsessives. Re-issued again on good ol' vinyl, it's a reminiscence for them that'll be fun at first - opener Dark Days defines the form with its fuzz-soaked, trebly guitars and enthusiastically awry harmonies - but that even diehards will soon be questioning it's new lease of life.

The problem is that as much as writing about things that you did before texting and Facebook - like snogging in bus shelters - was both familiar and satisfying, the shambolic musical background grates. All of this makes the jokey covers of Da Doo Ron Ron and My Boy Lollipop seem like a waste of time, and even when they take matters lyrically up a notch with some anti cold war sentiment, the recurring sense of amateurism makes it hard to gain much credibility.

The point of Sound of The Westway and dozens of other records like at the time was that the existentialism of punk and the innocence of pop could stand side by side. It's a template that continues to inform the work of modern female icons today - you don't think Florence drew inspiration just from Kate Bush and Candi Staton did you? - but Chin Chin didn't live long in the memory then, and there's little justification for the teleport back to now.

Andy Peterson