The Upshot: Chunklet’s resident smartass yuks it up for an adoring indie rock crowd, much to the bafflement of U2, Cat Power, and Nirvana fans.
BY FRED MILLS
Who needs to deal with micro-aggressions when there are micro-IMPRESSIONS running roughshod over culture these days? America, allow me to reintroduce you to Henry Owings, Chunklet majordomo. With Chunklet, whether we’re talking the publication, record label, or, um, enterprise, you know there’s always gonna be a twist at some point, which is testimony to Owings’s oftentimes twisted outlook on life. He’s now expanded his purview to stand-up comedy, and his first project is “Micro-Impressions Volume 1,” a live recording of him at Atlanta’s 529 doing one-second impressions of bands, some iconic, some not-so, and some so underground that their sendups are way-inside jokes. Each impression is spot-on in its own way, however, and if you find yourself scratching your head over one that goes over your head, never fear—in about a second, you’ll be laughing your ass off so hard that you’ll drown out the next three portrayals.
Side A kicks off with his one-second take on Melt-Banana, a succinct squeaky-voiced ‘Thank you!,’ but before you have a chance to process it (I made a mental note to go pull out all my Melt-Banana records and live tapes later to determine the exact source of Owings’ inspiration), you’re knee-deep in U2 (a kind of moan that’s equal parts heavenly passion and a particularly satisfying bowel movement), the Red Hot Chili Peppers (a rapid-fire shout of ‘Give it away!’ with the second half of ‘away’ clipped off), the Fall (‘maaan-uh’), and Joy Division (‘radio’ delivered in an impossible baritone that’s so perfect I can imagine Peter Hook ringing Owings up the next time he decides to tour a Joy Division album). Yeah, I was indeed cracking up by this point, and we’re only about 45 seconds into it.
The final impression on side A has Owings acknowledging up front that it will run longer than a second, and then you hear the presumed sound of Cat Power’s Chan Marshall sobbing quietly and inconsolably into the mic as the track spirals to its conclusion. Brutal, bruh. (Earlier he also does a six-second Shipping News, similarly breaking his one-second rule. Sorry, you’ll have to buy the record to find out what the impression sounds like.)
Flip the single, and the lunacy continues, with takedown after takedown, from Fugazi, Mastodon, and Prince, to Trans Am, Blonde Redhead, and Man…or Astro-Man?, plus three special impressions clearly dear to Owings’s black little heart. There’s AC/DC, done twice (you guessed it: Bon Scott followed by Brian Johnson). There’s also one he calls ‘The Trilogy,’ which features White Zombie and Metallica sounding appropriately hostile/aggressive, plus The Nineties (‘yup!’ — one of the aforementioned head-scratchers, as I wasn’t sure if he means The Nineties the band, and if so, we’re talking really obscure, as I can only find a lone Bandcamp page for anyone called The Nineties, or the decade. Take your pick!) And then there’s another trilogy of sorts, Smashing Pumpkins followed by Courtney Love followed by Nirvana, and if you’ve ever wondered to yourself if you’re the only person who thinks those three artists are musically interchangeable, rest assured there’s at least one stand-up comedian out there who agrees with you.
Bottom line: It is a must-spin at any party you and your hipster friends decide to crash, potentially the next Trivial Pursuit–like social gathering craze. In fact, I’m starting to get the itch myself . . . wanna hear my Ian Anderson, David Lowery, and Brian Jones impressions? Memo to self: work on perfecting my underwater gurgling sound.”
Consumer Note: While we await the second volume, don’t sit on your hands ‘cos this is a micro-pressing of just 150 copies—100 on sweet red wax, 25 on black, and 25 clear. It’s also available digitally, of course, but really, you choice is pretty straightforward. The record sleeve comprises a load of “reviews” that Owings preemptively solicited from friends, family, and foes, which makes for excellent toilet reading. (Full disclosure: I provided Owings with the above review so he could use it for the promo pitch at his Bandcamp page. And yes, I still laugh my ass off every time I listen to the stuff.) You’ll even get the Owings promo photo for exercising the proper consumer choice. What’s not to like?
DOWNLOAD: It’s a friggin’ single. Duh.