Chumbawamba are back, armed with acoustic guitars, accordion and
trumpet, five-part harmonies, a bucketful of attitude and a new
25-track album called 'The Boy Bands Have Won'. It actually has
a much longer
than that but let's call it by its pseudonym.
Chumbawamba aren't like other bands. I think that was clear around
20 years ago when they made their first album, 'Pictures of Starving
Children Sell Records' as a response to Live Aid. Chumbawamba began
with a mission to be interesting and arresting, to be literate and
The new album is a collection of such ideas; some are just passing
thoughts, others are fully-formed songs. The album is gentle and
warm in tone, but caustic in intent. There's nothing worse than
being wishy-washy; nothing worse than just sounding lovely and providing
a backdrop for a gentle, pleasant, warm-weather pleasantness. Believe
'The Boy Bands Have Won' is Chumbawamba playing with culture, with
the idea of recycling our own culture. We all have this vast history
of 'stuff', musical and historical and in art and sport and politics
and a million other things. And it's all there for the taking.
So the band have written all these tunes and words and mixed them
up with ideas about culture, mixed in samples of themselves from
the past, mixed in a bunch of different musical styles and messed
around with the Chumbawamba formula. Because that's what too many
bands do - stick to the formula. And that's boring after a while.
So here they go again, only this time it's different again. And
again. And again.
The album features guests the OysterBand, Roy Bailey, Robb Johnson,
Barry Coope and Jim Boyes
and a hundred others, give or take
a few. Some of its 25 songs tackle all the important stuff like
poetry, war, death, knickers and Lord Bateman's motorbike accident.
There's some heavyweight wrestling with WH Auden, Bertold Brecht
and Lord Bono.
There's a song about El Fusilado, the man who survived a firing
squad execution. A song about Gary Tyler, an innocent man who has
spent thirty years as an inmate on America's death row. A song about
Margaret Thatcher. And a song, 'Add Me', pre-released only on Chumbawamba's
MySpace site, a gentle dig at the creeps who clutter up cyberspace.
The songs are sad, jolly, up, down, quiet, loud, slower, faster,
all in a big mix. It's a real modern-day concept album. Believe