The Chickens CD RELEASE PARTY with Elliott Brood , Wayne Omaha and Jesus Fonzarelli Project at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), Saturday (February 14). $7. 416-598-4753. Rating: NNNNN
as poorly performing major la bels sink their dwindling profits into recordings by reality television quasi-celebs like Bachelor Bob Guiney, sharper musicians are naturally considering alternative production and distribution options. The Chickens aren't waiting around until some A&R rep figures out that they're more exciting, creative, productive and durable than any rock 'n' roll band currently on their own label roster. Our featherless fivesome are going ahead and releasing their ripping new Bring It On! disc on a label they've formed themselves, Rubber Road Records.
What first hits you about the Chickens' latest epic is that it's not the usual raging end-to-end burner with everything set to 10.
Over the last couple of years, the former U.I.C. punks have learned a thing or two about dynamics. They've pulled back on the attack, allowing frontman Dave Robinson some room to sing rather than shout himself hoarse.
"Yeah," concedes guitarist Fred Robinson somewhat reluctantly, "I guess you could say this is a more mature recording.
"The first one was just an in-your-face garage rock record, but Bring It On! is definitely more eclectic. There's more variation in tempos and moods, which I think will make for a more enjoyable listen. And Dave's singing is really great throughout."
According to Robinson, the Chickens' Bring It On! disc is just the beginning of an ambitious 2004 release schedule for their fledging label.
In the coming months, they'll follow with the soundtrack to Paula Tiberius's indie flick Goldirocks (www. goldirocks.com), a rock 'n' roll fairy tale set in Toronto, with contributions from Tiberius's band Sticky Rice, the Chickens, U.I.C., the Deadly Snakes, the Sadies, Tricky Woo, the Swallows, Wayne Omaha and others.
"As part of Paula's film, the Chickens appear live at Lee's Palace, so we came up with the idea of releasing the soundtrack on our new record label. So that's coming out to coincide with the release of the Goldirocks DVD in April.
"There are actually 48 songs by 41 Canadian artists in the film, so we had to narrow the list down to 22 tracks, but it's still an amazing disc. The Goldi character does an incredible version of Teenage Head's Let's Shake backed by Ian Blurton and his band. I like it as much as the original."
Even more thrilling is the U.I.C. archival release that Rubber Road has on deck. Back in the fall of 88 - during the early days of grunge hysteria - U.I.C. tore through their live set with former Blue Rodeo keyboardist Bob Wiseman rolling tape. The session was meant to be the follow-up to U.I.C.'s Our Garage, but for some reason they mysteriously changed plans and the master tapes went missing.
In the intervening years, the story of the great lost U.I.C. album recorded at the group's flame-throwing peak became part of Toronto rock 'n' roll folklore. But happily, the tapes have been located, and the Wiseman Sessions disc is currently being readied for a summer release. I've heard it, and you'd better believe this shit roars!
"It turned out that the tapes really weren't lost. Bobby had them all the time. The recording sounds amazing, and we really were playing at our peak.
"At the time, U.I.C. was run as a democracy and, strange as it now seems, not everyone in the group liked the sound of the session. We put it to a vote, and because one person, who will remain nameless, was against the idea, we shelved it and put out the Live: Like Ninety recording instead. Hey, that's the way it goes. I'm just glad it's finally coming out."