Review Revue: Chumbawamba – Slap!

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Despite being the creators of one of the most infectious, earworm-worthy songs of the 90s (and probably being considered by most to be the epitome of the one-hit wonder), the British band Chumbawamba has a long history as a radical, anarchist musical collective, and have released close to 20 albums in their 20+ year career. I was looking through the record shelves, and the cover of 1994’s Anarchy jumped out at me — but not in a good way at all (I’ll let you find that yourselves on the web to figure out why). In the interest of keeping this blog as Safe for Work as possible, I moved on to 1990’s Slap!, which boasted a much more family-friendly cover as well as much more heated debate. Here we go, starting with the haters on the right:

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“Retro ‘swing,’ 40s beats, female vocals, Brit music community hodgepodge, all political themes, impossible to assimilate in one listen (which is to say no hooks stand out).”

The following five quotes are all from the same label, and it’s very hard to determine who’s responding to whom or what they’re talking about…

“Yeah, you’re right, Crass and Slits is the idea, right?”

“But what are they grateful about?”

“1-1, 2-4 are Andrews Sisters??!”

“PC Andrew Sisters! Sorry, can’t hear it.”

“WEENIES” [with arrows pointing to everything else on this label]

“Yea, the written descriptions reveal some interesting topics, but one’d never guess it from the music by itself . . . should the DJ read a preface? I think not.”

“Actually, this is interesting. They probably would be a kick live.”

“Best I’ve seen since Gang of Four in ’82. Honest.”

“Can I comment after just listening to side 1? Okay, thanks: 1) The music is mediocre; 2) I don’t find their acquired meaningfulness funny. Elvis + Tiananmen = ? L or sell.”

“Long time since I’ve seen paintings by South African high kitsch painter, Tretchikoff, as reproduced here on cover.” [Apparently this cover image is the biggest-selling art print in the world. Who knew?]

“I see nothing wrong with this LP. It should be in M. Rhythmic, catchy, and cool.”

“Should go into H. This diverse hot hot stuff! I really like it.”

“I’ll second this.”

“‘Tiananmen Square’ is cool! It samples Philip Glass’s music for Powaqqatsi.”

“Thanks for H.”

“Right side sucks. Right side sucks. Right side sucks.”

“Is this the year of the underdog or what? Everybody hated this record at first. I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve heard so far. Quite unique.”

“Too bad they came to town when everybody hated this!”

“Not me. I liked it and I saw them, so everybody has to smell my feet.”

“Well get them back here, Peggy. Isn’t that your job?”

“Not anymore buster!”

“Why is her face blue?”

“Did the three reviewers on the right listen to the same record I did? While the LP doesn’t quite capture the soul + energy of the live performance (one of the most moving and inspiring shows I’ve experienced since the Gang of 4 in 1982), this is a deep + enjoyable piece of vinyl. No hooks?! The first cut ran through my head for hours after one listen! 1-4 is another charp, catchy #. And 2-3 is one of the more vibrant + intense songs I’ve heard in a while. Granted, to fully appreciate Chumbawamba, one must read the liner notes + lyrics. As a radio listener can’t do this, the full impact can’t be felt. But on its surface merits this is still deserving of at least M.”

With such an eloquent champion in its corner, it does appear (based on some other comments) that the powers that were gave Slap! a chance, and slotted it in heavy rotation, at least for a time. Sometimes the good guys do win. Hopefully the band came back to Seattle again so the people who used to hate them could see what they’d been missing.

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One Comment

  1. eric_b
    Posted January 31, 2008 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    When Chumbawamba first came to town they played a show in an old movie theater in the central district. It was being squatted at the time by a small number of kids who I believe invited them to stay there. There was about 20 people there to see them.
    This was before this part of the CD got heavily gentrified and it was fun stopping in at the pub around the corner for a beer and some local flavor.
    It was an interesting show and it was very different when we saw them at the Paramount a couple years after that.

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