Thursday, April 17, 2014


Buy! Anything. Other retailers are available

Accusations of April foolery around my last piece, within which I feinted off Chris de Burgh with damp praise. Heaven forfend! As if etc etc. By way of recompense let me now big up some true favourites of mine, the mighty Chumbawamba. Known best, clearly, for this , it is by no means the peak of their pedestal, although its classic quiet bit/shouty bit/chorus was always a recurrent theme in their repertoire, as this , from a decade before, demonstrates. This latter song had been  part of the first time, of many, that I saw them, at the first Guildford festival, and I was converted in an instant of the trumpet's first parp, as much by the lively performance art of the show, as for the beats, choral harmonies and general who gives a demonstrated by all 8 of them.

They actually started life as the disparate inhabitants of a squat in the northen british city of Leeds. Ironically, despite or because of their strong political stance, they were from the start labelled as anarcho-punks. By the 1990s they had gouged out sufficient instrumental proficiency, which together with the absorbtion of techno and rave culture, gave then an unusual status, with glorious pop melodies hand by jowl with unisonic chanting,  programming and some of the sweetest female singing outside a chamber choir. Add a who cares and liberal attitude to the use of sampling, and short snappy slogans, culled from and with diverse soundbites, used as quirky between song fodder, and you had their template. Their early recording history was scattered between various tiny indie labels, with cassette only product and records hastily withdrawn, for breach of copyright. 1994's Anarchy, with it's scarcely inviting cover of close up childbirth, was possibly the first breakthrough of sorts, and the first I bought, immediately after the show described earlier.

Time for another song, a 2nd one from Anarchy, being Homophobia, a strident condemnation of same. As well as the studio version, there was also a slightly different live version. See which you prefer.

Fast forward to 1997 and the Chumbas did the hitherto unthinkable and signed to a major label, EMI, taking no small amount of stick for this, perhaps having the last laugh as "Tubthumping became a massive world wide one hit wonder, with much of the profit being syphoned back to the agit-prop causes they had always supported. They had not finished, either, with controversy, with their infamous drenching of then british prime minister Tony Blairs deputy at a music awards jamboree, and suggesting their american fans could shoplift the LP if they couldn't afford it. 2 or 3 broadly similar LPs then appeared, with a gradual change becoming noticeable, and a conscious shift towards including traditional english folk motifs. Indeed, 2002s Readymades included songs built around the sampled voices of Dick Gaughan and Kate Rusby, amongst others, and archived material. See if you recognise where the guitar is lifted from.

In 2005 the band all but seemed to break up, or to, at least, stop, but within only a matter of months a small hardcore of the band was again heavily touring, this time as an all acoustic quartet, plus various others. For me this became my favourite incarnation, the old songs sitting perfectly in a now overtly folk setting, with folk clubs and folk festivals being their main stages. New songs aplenty poured forth also, taking full advantage of the consummate harmony vocals of their heavenly chorale, at odds, often with harsh lyrical barbs. My example here, maybe unwisely, is a cover  Nonetheless, I'm hoping you will go seek out more, from my whirlwind taster. My recommendations would probably be WYSIWIG, from 2000, and A Singsong and a Scrap, from 5 years later. I would also direct you to an excellent (auto) bigraphical book,  Footnote* by the everpresent Boff Whalley, guitar and choirboy vocals.

The acoustic band called it a day in 2102, closing down with this statement:
                             "We do, of course, reserve the right to re-emerge as Chumbawamba doing                                               something else entirely (certainly not touring and putting out albums every 2 or 3                                     years). But frankly, that’s not very likely. Thirty years of being snotty, eclectic, funny,                               contrary and just plain weird. What a privilege, and what a good time we’ve had."

I for one look forward to that day, in the interim having to make do with this , paid for years in advance, in a duly delivered promise to release on the death of it's subject matter, Margaret Thatcher. Probably fair to say they hadn't been big fans...........

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