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Why Call It Anything

The Chameleons

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Album Review

After various live appearances and the engaging acoustic retrospective Strip, the Chameleons reunited with Strange Times producer Dave Allen to create the eagerly awaited Why Call It Anything, only the fourth real studio collection from the full band and the first such album in 15 years. Happily, Why Call It Anything continues the band's well-deserved reputation, the more so because for all the unmistakable marks of the Chameleons, the rich guitars, and powerful singing, it's not simply a recreation of any of the previous albums — like those three, this one stands on its own. In ways, Why Call It Anything is the most traditional-sounding Chameleons album yet, one that bears clear evidence of the members' various solo and group pursuits throughout the 1990s, a new emphasis on almost folk-based song structures, acoustic guitars a more regular part of the arrangements. Consider "All Around," with its killer chorus, softly descending without sounding sad, or the melancholy chime of "Lufthansa," a haunting number worthy of comparison to "Tears" or "Seriocity." Then there's the reggae toasting guest vocal from Kwasi Asante on "Miracles and Wonders," definitely a first for the band. Those who expect the full electric thrill of hearing Burgess again backed by the Fielding/Smithies duo won't be disappointed either; there are plenty of new highlights throughout, Lever's underrated but always excellent drumming anchoring things down. There are the lush electric touches on "Anyone Alive?," the strung-out, mysterious conclusion of "Truth Isn't Truth Anymore," or the yearning, quietly epic surge of "Dangerous Land," arguably the album's most underrated song. While the huge crunch and cinematic scope along the lines of "Swamp Thing," "The Heale,r" and "Soul in Isolation" no doubt will be missed by some, the end results still have a worthy loveliness that grows with repeated listening. Through it all, Burgess' warm voice, singing lyrics dedicated to his favored subjects of personal connection in a cold world, constantly makes clear what band this is about and why it has inspired such devotion.

Biography

Formed: 1981 in Middleton, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '00s

The atmospheric pop band the Chameleons formed in Manchester, England, in 1981 from the ashes of a number of local groups: vocalist/bassist Mark Burgess began with the Cliches, guitarists Reg Smithies and Dave Fielding arrived from the Years, and drummer John Lever (who quickly replaced founding member Brian Schofield) originated with the Politicians. After establishing themselves with a series of high-profile BBC sessions, the Chameleons...
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