Thursday, June 2, 2011

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipmunk Punk

Review # 5
Artist: Alvin and the Chipmunks*
Title: Chipmunk Punk
Format: LP
Label: Excelsior
Year: 1980
Songs: 9

I can't remember which punk documentary it was in, or who was talking, but at least one prominent musician from the early days of the scene said, and I'm paraphrasing, "When this came out, I knew punk was over." I've never subscribed to the notion that punk died with the Sex Pistols or whatever, but the release of this record was certainly a sign that, to paraphrase Crass, the system had stolen the proverbial sting from the tail of the first wave of punk. Chipmunk Punk signified that the trappings of punk had become very comodifiable and non-threatening to a large segment of the population. The cover, as you can see, depicts those lovable rodents in a dirty alley, with graffiti they are presumably responsible for. Alvin sports spiky hair and a safety pin, while Theodore rocks a skinny, mod-style tie. Punk had become something you could safely market as a cartoon or novelty record.

Or so it seemed.  While the image here is certainly evocative of punk rock cliches, the music really isn't. This record includes covers of Linda Rondstadt, Billy Joel, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, The Knack, Queen, and, as close to actual punk as the Chipmunks can muster, The Cars and Blondie. Actual punk music, it would appear, was still too controversial for the chipmunks. By 1980, you'd think they could have at least managed Devo and the Ramones, maybe even the Clash, but really, Linda Rondstadt? I know that for a minute, the big record labels were trying to market everything they could as punk, but give me a break.

Oh well. Ultimately, this a piece of pop-culture cheese that's fun to bust out every once in a while, but the cover is better than the music. I actually had this framed on my wall for a bit, making it ever-present but never-heard. It's that good of a listen.

Want to hear a sample? Here's "My Sharona."

Total songs listened: 61

*Some Chipmunks records credit simply "The Chipmunks" as the artist, while others credit "Alvin and the Chipmunks." In order to keep all my Chipmunks records together (oh yes, there are more), I file them all under "A." But the discerning Chipmunks fan may note  that this particular record actually belongs under "C."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow! I can't believe you've already reviewed 60+ songs! Are you sure you don't have MORE than 30,000 songs in your collection?!