Chipmunk Punk

The Chipmunks

Mercury, 1980

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


I just moved for the third time in four years. As I get older, each move gets more tedious as I acquire more stuff. This last move was especially tedious because I moved into the top floor of a three-story condo that was built around 1910. The entertainment center sucked. The bed sucked. The books REALLY sucked. But the biggest pain was hauling the 700 or so CDs in my collection.

A few years ago, I went on a minimalist streak and I haven’t turned back. No longer did I feel like I had to put every CD of mine on display. The CD towers that house about 300 CDs could be my “hall of fame.” For example, Bjork’s Debut, Homogenic and Post could be on display, but Vespertine and Medulla could go in those CD envelopes. The only bad thing, of course, is once you put them there, you can pretty much forget about selling them at a used CD store since you just kissed the jewel case goodbye.

All of this -- the CDs I’ve purchased since my first buy (U2’s my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Joshua Tree, purchased in 1993), the cassettes I bought before breaking down and getting a CD can be traced back to one single buy, the first time I bought something with my own money. It was Chipmunk Punk.

Looking at Chipmunk Punk now, it’s hard to classify it as punk or new wave. The album’s closest stab at punk is with Blondie’s “Call Me.” The actual Blondie song was played at double speed by DJ Chuck Taylor, who later joked that it was the Chipmunk’s newest single. Unbeknownst to him, this kicked off a revival and Chipmunk Punk was the first Chipmunks album in more than a decade. 

The rest of the album was as punk as a Superfriends public safety announcement. “Refugee” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers? “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Queen? “You May Be Right” by Billy Joel? For a cynic, the only thing Chipmunk Punk proved was that virtually any musical movement could be marketed, no matter how anti-establishment its roots were buried. 

If it would have been called Chipmunk Rock (which they came out with in 1982), it would have been a more apt description, but it wouldn’t have qualified as a camp classic. And besides, any album that can get kids into Bruce Springsteen, The Cars and Blondie is doing the music world a service. That said, any goodwill that was levied on The Chipmunks was evaporated with their next album, A Chipmunk Christmas.

It took less than three years for The Chipmunks to go from the gritty, urban setting of Chipmunk Punk to a glitzy Saturday morning cartoon staple. This year, they will star in a groan-inducing live action movie. And as much as I dread ever putting this album on again (even for John Waters camp value), I can’t help but feel a ting of gratitude toward the album for kicking off a lifelong love of music.

Hell, I’d even like to see the Chipmunks revisit the late-70s/early 80s era and see if they could make another legitimate sequel of Chipmunk Punk, only with true punk/goth staples such as Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” Ramones’ “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue” and a Chipmunk cover of Siouxsie and the Banshees’ cover of The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter.” Makes you wonder if a disc like that would have the same influence on a kid today buying his first CD as the original had on me.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2007 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Mercury, and is used for informational purposes only.