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Album Review

Though its clickable stream isn't as satisfying as the manual tune of a shortwave, Internet radio is still an effective international transmitter for localized sounds and ideas. The crew of a supertanker might joyfully discover a stream for New York hip-hop powerhouse Hot 97, for example, and blast Jay-Z into the inky Indian Ocean night. Conversely, the Internet grants a profound reach to the rants of the average soapbox idealist, whose words might burst with sudden and unlikely force from tinny desktop speakers half a world away. These bitstream cultural transfers — both the wanted and the unwanted — are the impetus for the grumbling lovely global village of Chumbawamba's UN. Its rousing punk past put on a shelf, the veteran collective of outsider Brits has crafted a set from international bits of found sound and World Wide Web crosstalk both extreme and goofy. There's the usual vocal harmony keen, and a bed of acoustic guitars and subtle electronic programming holds the whole thing together. "Just Desserts" begins with a scratchy prayer group recording, before winding into an accordion-fueled support platform for Global Pastry Uprising. Is that Billy Bob Thornton telling the anecdote at "Everything You Know Is Wrong"'s start? Unclear, but the cut's poppy acoustic bop cloaks its recitation of some of the most significant conspiracies, controversies, and violent events of the recent era, not to mention Chumba's position that stuffed-shirt agendas were behind them all. The song's a rabble-rouser, for sure, but just one in this UN's nation-by-nation Bad Stuff survey. It joins "Be With You," which gives support to Zimbabwean cricketers protesting President Mugabe; "Buy Nothing Day"'s endorsement of Adbusters magazine's infamous anti-consumerism movement; and "I Did It for Alfie," the story of a parent's personal protest against the world he brought his child into. These themes tend to take precedence over Chumbawamba's music. It has evolved into a nice-enough amalgam of samples and folktronica, but can be a bit bland on its own terms. The music seems much more comfortable when its political and social observations are seamless with its beats and breaks. Standouts in this respect include "A Man Walks into a Bar," which is topped off with evocative Latin rhythms, but is also a clever and explosive indictment of the Cuban embargo. "Following You" is a hopeful tribute to humanizing urban space, and "Rebel Code" celebrates Linux and the Open Source Revolution. By posting missives about problems on an international scale (and using the Internet for source material), Chumbawamba has effectively moved its brand of activism into a new phase as borderless as the powers-that-be it struggles against.

Customer Reviews

Brilliant, an instant classic

This is one of those rare albums where you can enjoy almost every song. Each has its own atmosphere, its own statement to make, but running in the background the songs blend together to create an amalgam of thought-provoking sounds and lyrics that are truly a journey through the lesser-known corners of the modern world. The provocative "Everything You Know is Wrong" attempts to plant seeds of doubt about controversial events, while "On eBay" serves as a commentary of the ever-increasing consumerism of society. Defiant lyrics and underground voices with a world beat blend together to make for an unforgettable musical and aural journey. Definitely worth checking out.

Wow... Now one of my favorites

This album is amazingly catchy. I, like most people here in the US only knew of them from tubthumper. I checked out the 2 free songs they have from this album on their website, listened to them each once and liked them, but what really got me to get it was that they stuck in my head for more then a week. If you like 'Buy Nothing Day' from their website, you will love this album.

Light and Fluffy

This is great music just to listen to and tap your foot. Yeah, they might be whacked, but hey, its fun, catchy music. The best Chumba so far. You'll be glad when these songs are stuck in your head.


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 Chumbawamba continued issuing politically aware albums (many of them featuring...
Full Bio
Un, Chumbawamba
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Customer Ratings