It takes a lot of self-control to not stand up, clap and shout along with Tami Neilson’s CHICKABOOM!
The word “chickaboom” gives me some serious camp flashbacks. There’s a call-and-response song — I think it’s called “Boom-Chicka-Boom” — that would make the camp descend into a frenzy. The song involved repeating “I said a boom-chicka-boom” in different melodies until the leader of the chant called for a different style: “I said a boom-chicka-boom” would be substituted for, say, in the case of “janitor style,” “I said a broom-sweep-a-broom.” Truly, peak comedy when you are eleven years old.
CHICKABOOM!, the latest album from Toronto-born, New Zealand-based artist Tami Neilson, has the same frantic energy that the indelible camp song would induce. With a time-travelling mix of old school rock ‘n’ roll, country, and a splash of blues and soul for good measure, the album’s ten songs are so energetic and fun (even when the lyrics have melancholic overtones) that it takes a lot of self-control to not stand up, clap, and shout along with her.
Neilson takes big, bold strokes on CHICKABOOM! and tackles a lot of subject matter. On opener “Call Your Mama,” Neilson meticulously destroys a slime-ball (“Why don’t you call your mama, see if she’s gonna float you a loan until you get paid,” she sneers); “Queenie Queenie” addresses the immense pressure that mothers feel; the rollicking “Hey, Bus Driver!” is about the life of a touring musician and the joy that the thought of home brings; “Sister Mavis” is an anthem about the holy trinity (Mahalia Jackson, Mavis Staples, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe) that should be played on full blast.
Under the steady guidance of Neilson, a dazzling leader who is in a league of her own, CHICKABOOM! flows with ease. She consistently underscores each track with attitude and an obvious love of performing which tightly ties the album into an explosive package that will get you off of your feet no matter your age.