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The Boy Bands Have Won

Chumbawamba

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Album Review

The new acoustic Chumbawamba are now three albums into their career, and they seem to have really got the hang of it with this one. The boy bands haven't won, of course, not when there's creativity like this around. Perhaps they've now settled comfortably enough into their new identity to become more open, but this collection of songs long and short includes drumming, some programming, fuller arrangements here and there with Dixieland, and a stray brass band, a couple of samples (Martin Carthy speaking) and even some guests, in the shape of the Oysterband's Robb Johnson and Roy Bailey — all folkies with a strong political bent. The songs here actually seem to pick up from where the older version of the band left off with Readymades, hutting notes that are political and poignant — usually together — "Refugee" is a perfect example, but there's also plenty of acid wit ("Add Me") and in "Word Bomber" they've made a gorgeous plea for peace that never comes close to the maudlin. They know their strengths and play to them, using harmonies and simple melodies — witness "Words Can Save Us." Now they're firmly fixed on the folkie side of the aisle, they cock a snoot at trad folk with the delicious "Lord Bateman's Motorbike." The anger might not be as overt as it was in the mid-'90s, but it's still there, and they now seem to thoroughly understand how to mix pop — of the acoustic folk variety, of course — and politics in the most natural way. Perhaps surprisingly for a band that's been around for so long, but one of the most satisfying discs of their career.

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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The Boy Bands Have Won, Chumbawamba
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