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Volume 91, Issue 26
Wednesday, October 15, 1997
Country Club road
For those unfamiliar with British political vernacular, a "Tubthumper" is someone who climbs up on a political soapbox to cite their views and shout out at the world. Over the past 10 years, English musical activists Chumbawamba have been tubthumping throughout the world rallying their support for the ideals of Anarchism and spreading their views through numerous recordings and performances.
Although the group started out as a punk band, Chumbawamba soon deviated in its political expression from the brick over the head approach taken by such groups as Rage Against The Machine. In recent years, the band has turned toward pop music as its political weapon of choice and the move has shown surprising results.
With the new release Tubthumpers, Chumbawamba has taken its political messages to the dance halls and cleverly combined acidic stirring lyrics with sing-song dance rhythms. It's kind of hard to imagine dancing to pop-friendly songs that deal with renouncing Catholicism or striking English dock-workers, but somehow Chumbawamba makes it seem natural.
Since the band's conception in the mid-'80s, Chumbawamba has skillfully developed as a musical chameleon incorporating all forms of music from punk to folk to express its political agenda. For first time listeners, Tubthumpers may seem like a standard electronic dance record, but in looking at the background of Chumbawamba, one can see that once again the band is filtering its views through the confines of a new musical format.
While some musicians stand on the fringe of the music industry to express their political views, Chumbawamba has managed to worm its way onto a major label with the release of Tubthumpers in hopes of shouting out its views to a mass ready to dance and hopefully ready to open their minds as well.
It's the type of CD that makes you want to stick gobs of masking tape to your glasses. Anyone who wishes to raise a ruckus among their conforming, conventionalized companions simply needs to place a single copy of the Ids Psycho Babylon in their home stereo system.
Although many artists spend tedious years perfecting and polishing their abilities, it is apparent these buffoons are just releasing CDs for fun. It's noisy. It's sloppy. It sounds bad. But everyone is supposed to know this is all done on purpose.
Whether it's because of asthma or for the acoustic effect, the lead singer loves to wheeze, snort and clear his throat a lot. The sound engineer enjoys fame and glory since he gets to say "take 10" or "OK, you guys are on now" at the beginning of numerous tracks. Obvious intentional errors are carefully placed between tracks. The song "Kids these Days" sounds like it was recorded over a crackling, useless piece of telephone junk they found beside some rotting parsnips in a dumpster.
Tempos range from a lazy, lethargic lingering to a confused, careless clamour. In addition, the drummer seems to be purposely defective most of the time. Although every song features an acoustic guitar, instrumentation is rather absorbing because melodies and spurious noises come and go as they please at whatever volume they please.
Similarly, the lyrics are mostly just monotonous piffle. Although they sound cool, it would be a dull and unnecessary waste of time to try to obtain any meaning from them.
One song to consider playing at a soirée would be "Locked in a Room" which projects a stellar oboe and a trumpet duet. "Summer of 1999" is an inventive song which features prosaic speaking parts over a toy plastic drum machine and a dissonant, resonant guitar line.
Although the Ids' attempt to sound 'bad on purpose' is a fun idea, it leaves the question churning in your head whether they really have any talent whatsoever.
The music is all about lying around on the floor a lot. It's about making noble and glorified sculptures out of plastic straws and cardboard McDonald's trash. To truly appreciate the ingenious and profundity of these three fantastical fellows, you need to accidentally lock yourself in the front hall closet for 15 hours with nothing but a CD player and a well- shaved peanut.
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Copyright © The Gazette 1997