Although they never really rose above cult status, or were featured in an iconic John Hughes film, or saw great international success like some of their contemporaries, few U.K. bands of the ’80s have been as influential as The Chameleons. Their darkly moody atmosphere, their nostalgic and even defiant lyrics courtesy of Mark Burgess, and particularly their lush guitar melodies by dual guitarists Reg Smithies and Dave Fielding have perhaps had a greater impact on the sound of bands like Interpol, Editors, and The Horrors than even Joy Division did. Certainly, Seattle bands like Romance and Black Nite Crash and many others acknowledge their sound in their own music, and they’ve gathered some of the most loyal fans of any band.
Unfortunately, though, The Chameleons released only three studio albums before imploding after the death of their manager, Tony Fletcher (see the resulting Tony Fletcher Walked on Water... La La La La La-La La-La-La EP for songs that could have been on the following album). Among the many posthumous albums released since, full of unreleased songs, live versions, and outtakes, the members of the band came back to release one more album of new material, Why Call It Anything?, in 2001 and even toured the U.S., but soon after The Chameleons were again no more.
Fortunately, songwriter Mark Burgess and drummer John Lever continued on amid their various side projects and last year reformed as The Chameleons Vox in order to perform songs from their back catalog live. For the U.S. leg the tour, Lever was unable to attend, but with a new band consisting of Justin Lomery and Andru Aesthetik on guitar, Jessica Espeleta on bass, and Glenn Maryansky on drums, Mark Burgess stopped by the KEXP studios to rip through Chameleons’ classics “Monkeyland,” “In Shreds,” “Up the Down Escalator,” and a fan favorite that they never used to play live, “In Answer.” Check out the videos here: