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FRANK CHICKENS (Buy CDs by this artist)
We Are Frank Chickens (UK Kaz) 1984
Get Chickenized (UK Flying Lecords) 1987
The Best of Frank Chickens (UK Kaz) 1987
Club Monkey (UK Flying Lecords) 1989

The two Japanese women (Kazuko Hohki, Kazumi Taguchi) who comprise Frank Chickens are both proud of and amused by their country's diverse cultural contributions to the world. On one hand, the debut album pays tribute to Ninja warriors and emotional Enka ballads, but the duo also sings with mock reverence on "Mothra," named for a classic low-budget monster movie. Lyrics and liner notes are both hilarious and/or absurd (see "Shellfish Bamboo"). Musically mixing synth-pop (created in the main by the English writing/production team of Steve Beresford and David Toop) with funk and jazz, the Chickens also incorporate Japanese musical traditions. Very entertaining.

Taguchi became an ex-Chicken and was replaced by Atsuko Kamura prior to Get Chickenized. Lyrics are even more preposterously campy than before, this time dealing mostly with observations of, and experiences with, Western culture. "Yellow Toast" concerns being a hip but exploited flavor-of-the-month in England: "You think we are full of Zen/But we prefer lots of yen/We are stupid little Japs/And you are splendid English chaps." Other songs are not as bitter and sarcastic as that, instead addressing subjects ranging from nonsensical Japanese lessons to female wrestling. The premature fifteen-track Best of Frank Chickens draws from the debut LP and early 45s.

Always in danger of being viewed strictly as a novelty act, Frank Chickens manage to avoid such trappings by remaining uniquely bizarre. Club Monkey tells a story about "Monkey People" who eat dogs as a drug and burn dead bodies so they can revive them as ghosts. After repression by the English squashes these time-honored traditions, they plot a revolution, to be led by a kung fu movie star. Got that? There might be something in there about animal rights; if so, it's a lot more amusing than a similar message from Morrissey. Musically, the Chickens offer the same oddball mélange as earlier albums, and the lyrics are as farcical as ever.

[David Sheridan]