Are We Not Zen? We Are Repo!


Like a pair of Zeligs w/portfolio, Susan Schmidt and Deborah Smith seem to materialize on each fateful stage of the Akron music scene. In the 1960s, they led all-female r’n’r code-breakers the Poor Girls, who opened for big axes like Cream and stuck brassy ideas into the mind pockets of teen fan Chrissie Hynde. By the mid ’70s, Schmidt and Smith played in Cinderella’s Revenge and Friction, groups fronted by Cleveland’s terminally towering neo-Rimbaud, Peter Laughner. After his death, they founded their own band, Chi-Pig, put out a single in 1978, and then placed another tune, “Apu Api [coincidentally Bengali for “Sister, Sister”] (Help Me),” on the legendary Akron Compilation from Stiff. In 1979 Chi-Pig recorded a whole album in Florida, but couldn’t land a label, even as many fellow Akronites were laying rubber on the majors.

A quarter-century passes in a blink of CD technology, and suddenly Chi-Pig’s entire oeuvre’s there for us on one disc, in what may be the keystone album of AkroNation. There are stylistic echoes of townies Tin Huey, the Waitresses, sometime collaborators Devo, even truckstop nymph Rachel Sweet, but Chi-Pig’s music is Akron beyond flood tide: a river of riotgrrrl harmolodics rushing down a surreal soapbox-derby course past all the booji boys in their skinny ties. Smith’s bass and Rich Roberts’s drums keep the headlong beat looping, while Schmidt’s free-verse guitar swerves in and out like a delivery van on an urgent chicken-and-pork-agenda run. With gender-sardonic lyrics about the eternal baffle-of-the-sexes cotillion, at a time when Elvis C. still hadn’t writ the book. A dozen sass ‘n’ sprockets tunes distinguish Chi-Pig’s Miami, which is no mere shouldabeen, but maybe 25 years ahead of its time even now. So (help me).