Chumbawamba – Readymades

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Album Review by Mark Bayross

What the Hell is this?! With their tenth album anarcho-indie stalwarts Chumbawamba have all but thrown out the agit-punk stomping of their previous sound (not to mention surprise chart hit TUBTHUMPING) like a bucket of cold water over a humiliated Deputy Prime Minister.

This time around, lead vocals are mainly supplied by Alice Nutter, enveloped by a warm blanket of lush synths, unobtrusive beats and folk samples. It sounds at times like The Beautiful South backed by Moby (see lead US single DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME), or, in the case of HOME WITH ME, comeback-period Tears For bloody Fears, but the haunting ALL IN VAIN is proof that they have also learned how to chill the spine.

Post-September 11, they may be in surprisingly harmonious and reflective mood, but Nutter, Dunstan Bruce, Danbert Nobacon and co. haven’t abandoned their habitual political resolve. WITHOUT RHYME OR REASON (THE KILLING OF HARRY STANLEY) decries the recent accidental police shooting of the titular unfortunate in a Hackney street, techno-rock closer AFTER SHELLEY takes on child poverty and SEWING UP CRAP screams injustice at the persistence of child labour, corporate exploitation and greed.

Elsewhere, Chumbawamba rail against the injustice suffered by Satpal Ram (DON’T PASS GO) and, in JACOB’S LADDER, they draw parallels between the deaths of hundreds of sailors at the hands of Winston Churchill’s policymaking in World War II and the Kursk tragedy, reaching the depressing conclusion that we are destined to repeat our mistakes.

So, business as usual lyrically, but musically, this will surprise anyone expecting another Chumbawamba album.

4 stars