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Ready Mades and Then Some

Chumbawamba

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Album Review

Chumbawamba's dalliance with the big time and novelty hit-single stardom came to an abrupt and fitting end with 2000s What You See Is What You Get. Rather than write a sequel to "Tubthumping," the famously anarchic group emptied the sack of barbs, slivers, and torn receipts acquired during their curious arc of international fame and glued them into a sticky, hooky, and cynical pop-culture mess. The record was standard operating procedure for Chumbawamba, but it spelled disaster for their deal with EMI, who had likely been hoping for "Son of Tubthumping: I Get Up Again, Again!" Well, bollocks to that. The group's major-label existence always seemed like an elaborate wool pull, anyway; its death was a perfect and expected punch line. After a hiatus, Chumbawamba has returned with Readymades (Koch), a collection of bitterly sarcastic, politically fed-up, and socially on-point modernist folk songs that rattle the brain as much with message as they do with melody. Chopped up guitar and horn samples and shuffleboard drum programming form the basis of "Jacob's Ladder," but the song unites around a timeless Harry Cox vocal sample. "And they sent him to the war to be slain," the revered English folk singer intones over the shimmering beats, and his presence aligns the song's contemporary antiwar message with a long history of protest. "After Shelley" taps the forlorn, soaring singing voice of Kate Rusby, matching it to pop-industrial flurry. Elsewhere, low-key, often lilting arrangements wrap melody around the plight of solitary people against monolithic government. And, in typical Chumbawamba fashion, they name names. "Without Reason or Rhyme (The Killing of Harry Stanley)" recounts the story of Stanley, a Scottish man killed by English police in a terrible case of mistaken identity. The track's swaying, almost balladic grace (and Joe Heaney sample) again connects Readymades to the longstanding folk tradition of the British Isles, where a beautiful melody makes a song's painful or angry lyrics that much more affecting. [This And Then Some version of the album includes a bonus DVD with excerpts from a film about the band, remixes of "Salt Fare, North Sea," and a version of "Tubthumping" performed by the Flaming Lips.]

Biography

Formed: 1984 in Leeds, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Formed in a squat in Leeds, England, in 1984, the anarchist pop group Chumbawamba were a most unlikely mainstream success story. After more than a decade in relative obscurity, much of it spent attacking the very notion of stardom, the band signed to a major label in 1997 and quickly scored a major international hit with the riotous single "Tubthumping." The single would prove to the band's commercial peak, even though...
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Ready Mades and Then Some, Chumbawamba
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