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Chilliwack - Wanna Be a Star CD (album) cover




Psychedelic/Space Rock

1.29 | 5 ratings

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1 stars It’s kind of hard to take this seriously as a progressive rock album, primarily because there’s nothing progressive about it. In fact, this is a concept record of sorts, with Chilliwack relating in not-so-veiled fashion their experience of ‘selling out’ in pursuit of commercial success in the music industry. It’s a true story if that makes things any better. Not really, I guess.

Chilliwack had made the transition from psych band the Collectors several years prior, and with this record they complete their metamorphosis into a full-fledged new wave rock band. Both the band and the album could have been poster-children for the death of a generation of good music that was marked by the record industry creative dearth known as the eighties.

On the up side for the band, this became their biggest-selling album as far as I know, having been certified gold in Canada and spawned a couple of minor hits throughout North America, one of which I actually remember. The band was riding the wave of Canadian AOR popularity as a b-list bastard stepbrother of headliners like April Wine, Loverboy, Triumph, Toronto, Refugee (the Canadian one, eh) and Saga (sorry Saga fans, it’s a bitter pill). They were never as big as any of those bands though, but the two Billboard-charting singles probably paid their houses off if they were prudent with the money.

There are some humorous moments, even if there are no progressive ones. The opening “Sign Here” starts off as a sort of Gregorian chant with the band reading the actual text of a recording contract, before Bill Henderson and the boys launch into a paint-by-numbers tempo complete with a weak vocal tirade against sleazy record company executives that John Fogerty could have improved immensely had the band given him a chance to red-pen it before it was recorded.

“(So You) Wanna Be a Star” is – well, just look at the title. Imagine a rhythm sort of like Loverboy’s “Little Girl” or anything the Greg Kihn Band ever recorded, along with the lyrics from any of the thousands of ‘beat-down-by-the-cold-and-heartless-recording-industry’ songs you’ve ever heard, and I think you’ll get the idea.

It should be noted that in some respects Chilliwack was in a tough spot at the time they recorded this album, so I suppose some consideration should be given for that. The totally awesome but horribly managed Mushroom Records label had pretty much imploded by this point, and the band had just managed to secure a contract with the tackily-named Solid Gold Records. That and the overall heavy pressure throughout the industry to cultivate MTV-friendly images for recording artists made things kind of difficult for musicians who didn’t own their own label/studio, or have the clout to demand full creative license for whatever they recorded. Come to think of it, even that didn’t guarantee a good record (I’m talking to you Rod Stewart).

But regardless, a pig in a dress is still a pig and anyone who was post-puberty and pre-senility in 1981 knows exactly the kind of music that was appearing on MTV and the airwaves (and yes, Chilliwack did have at least one video on MTV at the time).

The hits were “My Girl” (“gone, gone, gone – she been gone so long” – remember?), and “I Believe”, which is admittedly a fairly decent acoustic guitar ballad even if the lead singer sounds an awful lot like Orleans’ John Hall (“Still the One who can scratch my….” – rememb….., aw, forget it).

Another amusing tidbit is the very Jeff Lynne-sounding “(Don't Wanna) Live for a Livin”, which features a muffled yet glib rock-star retort to the music business (eg., “kiss my ass”). Somehow it was considered clever in Canada at the time to include verbal mooning of the record business in songs. Let’s see, we had Klaatu, who somehow convinced Capitol Records executive Rupert Perry to record himself telling them to ‘sell out’ on the disastrous ‘Endangered Species’ album; this clever bit from Chilliwack; and the totally hilarious “If You See Kay” from April Wine’s ‘Power Play’ album. I’m sure there are others – feel free to look some up yourself and have a belated chuckle.

Anyway, there’s not a whole lot else to say about this album. The band was embroiled in litigation over their bailout from Mushroom at the time, so they couldn’t even launch a tour to support the record, but despite that fact that they managed to make a fair amount of money off it anyway thanks to MTV and FM radio. Half the band would end up reforming as the Headpins a few years later, another eighties band whose records can be found in mass quantities in cutout bins today alongside the Babys Greatest Hits and most of Head East’s discography.

Chilliwack had a couple of moderately good albums at the beginning of the seventies that retained just a touch of the psych fuzz and hard edge that the Collectors album had in the sixties. But by this point of their career any magic they may have had was long gone, and what was left was a trio of musicians just trying to make a living in a terrible environment to be trying to make decent music. With this album I can’t say they really even tried. One star and not recommended.


ClemofNazareth | 1/5 |


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