WOWSERS! is the 2018 sophomore release from Athens’ psych rock band CHiCKN, following the self-titled album in 2016. The jetztzeit rock band formed in 2012 and has since gone through several lineup changes. Founding member Angelos Krallis is joined by a roster of musicians to form the current big band ensemble.
The album cover, featuring a scrambled and collaged face, as well as the wacky track
names is enough to pique any music buff’s interest. Plus, any title that name-drops
“Frank Zappa” or “Cher” just has to be good! So, put on the album, click play (or by
whatever means you have available), and let’s begin.
The listener is immediately thrown head-first down a vortex time machine of clashing
percussion, horns and reverb, during the short intro, “Invocation”. It is apparent this is
going to be a trip. With no time to spare between tracks, the second song “Am I Cher?” is perhaps the album’s catchiest song, emanating with pure 60’s appeal and easing the listener deeper into the journey. It sets the album’s tone as a sort of love child between the Grateful Dead and Edward Sharpe which marries old and new, free spirit experimental and feel good grooves. The song oozes with sincere cheerful pop vocals layered with heavy guitar riffs. The simple and fun lyrics, prominent horn section and groovy guitar solos in this song establish a common theme heard throughout the album.
Now that you’re warmed up, “Too Many Parables” takes a slightly slower turn, with
upbeat horns and a subtle swing vibe. It’s a mere moment for breath, however, as “I Cry
Diamonds” snaps the listener back into full acid rock. Head banging is a must to the
increasing tempo of the long instrumental section. If you haven’t kicked off your shoes by this point, you probably should to “Chickn Tribe (Reprise)”. Again, the song starts off harmonious, then tapers off almost entirely until it explodes back with full force, heavy on the percussion.
Alright, you’ve earned it, a quick dance break. “Egg of Love” maintains the same theme
with a country twist: a steady folk beat and soft, willful lyrics. An overall easy-listening,
toe-tapping track. It could have been background music in a scene at Woodstock.
If you’re still seated, stay there for this next one. In fact, sink back into the couch in
psychedelic wonder to take in “China Must Win”. Slightly faded, echoed vocals with
female accompaniment take on the role of tour guide for this trip. The album’s longest
song almost takes a path of its own, with moments of intensity and softness. Things
really pick up at the end with a powerful unison singing voice, bracing you for the peak
of the sonic experience.
“Elevational Love of Frank Zappa” is agreeably the pinnacle event of the album. By this point, it’s definitely 2 AM prime party time. All the elements of the album are tied together:
blasting horns, crashing percussion, happy vocals and even frantic piano. Dancing with
reckless abandon to this track is a given.
Then the hangover hits, except in this case, it’s not so bad. The soft chimes and soothing melody of “Cloud Over Athens” starts off simplistic, then builds slightly with a horn section, and then trails off entirely. It concludes the album in a post-trip state of calm, an allowance for quiet reflection.
No matter if you listen to the album in chronological order or on sporadic shuffle, this album will satisfy all your sonic cravings.