Written by El Puerquito Magnifico
After a bit of a hiatus, The Chipmunks have returned in a big way. Last year saw the little guys finally make their way to the big screen for their movie debut. This was quickly followed by a return to the studio to record Undeniable. Teaming once again with longtime producer (and adopted father) Dave Seville, the Chipmunks have crafted another fine album, though it doesn’t quite live up to the high standard the group has set in the past.
Bands such as Fleetwood Mac and The Beatles have proven that sometimes tension and in-fighting between band members can lead to a better product. Some artists are at their best under intense conditions: the Chipmunks are no exception to this rule. It’s never been a secret that the boys (especially Alvin) don’t always see eye-to-eye with their father/producer, and sometimes that tension threatens to derail the entire recording process. Every project they’ve worked on together has nearly come to an explosive end and examples of this are typically left on the album. There’s always at least one track that features a typical Seville outburst.
Normally, that kind of intensity fuels the artistic fire in Alvin and the boys. It’s what drives them to create such classic albums as Chipmunk Punk, Urban Chipmunk, and Let’s All Sing with the Chipmunks. On this album, however, it comes off a little flat. Sure, there’s more than a few good tracks on Undeniable, but one is left wondering if the tension between the band and their father/producer has taken the fire out of the group. The Chipmunks sound as though they’re just going through the motions on this one. The passion is gone and the album sounds fairly lackluster.
As I said, there are a few decent tracks. Their cover of Blink-182’s “All The Small Things” is actually superior to the original. “Ho Ho Ho” is a new holiday song that is destined to become a classic and their version of the Bob Marley classic “Three Little Birds” showcases the rhythmic rodents’ amazing ability to harmonize. I guess they’ve had 50 years to practice, so maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised. As good as their covers may be, the band really shines on their original material such as the previously mentioned “Ho Ho Ho”, “Acceptance,” and the title track, “Undeniable.” The Chipmunks have never been averse to adapting to different musical genres, and these three tracks fall a bit closer into the hip-hop/rap category, a realm in which the boys prove themselves to be very adept.
The two Led Zeppelin covers (“Thank You”, “Rock and Roll”) however, are lackluster at best. The same can be said for their attempt at injecting some soul into Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’”. Seeing these songs listed on the packaging got me really excited, but hearing them just made me skip ahead about halfway through. Children will probably enjoy these songs quite a bit, but longtime fans will find that the novelty wears off pretty quickly as they grind their teeth and wonder why they made this purchase.
When all is said and done, this is probably a fine album for kids who enjoyed the recent movie and want more Chipmunks product. Parents, however, will undoubtedly find it to be simply annoying. I don’t want to sound like some loser pining for his youth, but the fact is that the Chipmunks just aren’t as good as they used to be. You don’t win six Grammys by being a simple children’s act: there has to be some level of heart and talent there. Go back and listen to an old Chipmunks album. Sure, you’re not going to be blasting it at a party anytime soon, but they’re quite a bit of fun and well made. Undeniable lacks the skill and most of all lacks the heart of the old Chipmunks recordings. Nevertheless, this will probably make a good stocking stuffer and the few tracks that are good will make up for the bad.