Thursday, 27 November 2008

It's a nice sound, it's a happy sound, and it's er not doing anybody any harm

I like Chumbawamba.
I’ve always liked them, despite their irritating tub thumping.

And this is my favourite.

I had narrowed it down to this and Never Mind the Ballots, but in the end Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records is definitely the best Chumbawamba album.

Never Mind the Ballots is too much a product of its time; too plugged in to its own zeitgeist, and unless you were there, so to speak, it sounds a little like a historical tract.

Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records, however, has travelled through time incredibly well, and sounds as vital today – especially in our present state of economic crisis and potential ideological meltdown (those living under the Soviet Union didn’t think it could happen either) – as it did on release in 1986.

This album should be on the school curriculum.
It’s not preachy, but it does make you think.
And that’s no bad thing.
Is it?

But really, has music ever changed anything?
After all, I don’t ever remember Curtis Lemay admitting that Charlie wasn’t so bad once 'All You Need is Love' had been piped round the world.

Music is really only important in the moment.
And I’m sure those who sang 'Feed the World' along with Sir Bob & co back in 1985 sincerely felt the world was gaining sustenance merely from their heartfelt harmonious exhalation.

But music really only connects with those who listen; and those who listen tend to be the last people that should be listening, because they know it all ready.
So protest music is merely rhetoric, and the audience nod and agree with everything that is being said.

But that said, we love it.

And I love this.

And Chumbawamba used a trumpet long before Belle and Sebastian or Ian Brown.
Which is another thing I love about them.

The stand out tracks here are numerous; but the longer more complex songs such as ‘How to Get Your Band on Television’, with its wonderful ‘Slag Aid’, are superb:

“In keeping with the fashion of charity, not change
Here’s our contribution, we’ve called it Slag Aid
For every Pop Star that we slag off today
A million pounds will be given away!”

Followed by a ‘slagging off’ of all the household favourites, concluding with a masterful attack on Cliff (choral sounds, intense light) Richard:

“On behalf of our viewers watching on telly
And on behalf of the millions with empty bellies
We’re donating something special that we’re all going to like
Cliff Richard, we’re going to nail you up to a cross tonight.”

The song cycle ends with a repeated refrain which keeps “on going round”, and the only way out of the repetitive cycle is to “burn the house of commons to the ground”.
Seems like a fairly logical solution when it’s put so eloquently…

‘Unilever’, adopting a punk riff and an in your face guide to ethical shopping, only adds to the vitriol and contrition.
Also features a great chuck at the end!

But as always, Chumbawamba are terribly slippery when it comes to being shoved into a genre, as they move from punk to folk to satirical variety numbers.

And why not?
O yeah, and I adore the Tony Blackburn sample.

Chumbawamba - Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records (1986)

How to Get Your Band on Television
British Colonialism and the BBC
Commercial Break
More Whitewashing
An Interlude, Beginning to Take it back
Dutiful Servants and Political Masters
And in a Nutshell: 'Food Aid is our Most Powerful Weapon'

Vinyl rip @256kbs
There are some pops during the quiet bits, but they're few and far between.
But hey, it is a Porky Prime Cut,
so get yourself a slice here


Chris said...

Great LP this,your right about the second had to be there ! (still good though !) Always great live way back...watched them last year at Solfest doing there acoustic thing...and really enjoyed it ! If you get Boff Whaleys book...Footnote,well worth reading (one of the best books ive read !)

roy rocket said...

Thanks for the heads up on the book, Chris; I was totally unaware of it, but it's now very high on my Christmas list.
Yeah, I got to see the 'folk wing' of Chumbawamba a couple of years ago at my local provincial theatre.
Reproducing 'English Rebel Songs', and some great versions of songs such as 'Homophobia'. It wasn't punk rock, but for a sit down gig, and the band playing to a mainly bemused middle class audience, they did manage to retain a little bit of a subversive element.
But BIG RESPECT to them I say; they are certainly one of those bands that seem to have some integrity. Well I hope they have...
Anyway. Nice one, Chris.
Shanti, roy

Anonymous said...

any chance for a repost?

roy rocket said...


Listen and Understand said...

Awesome band. I also love their "Revolution" 7". I was fortunate enough to get a copy of their "First 2" CD(Never mind the Ballots + Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records). I think the songs "Revolution" and "More Whitewashing" had the biggest influence on me.