Chumbawamba

Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records

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Long before a song about relentless alcohol consumption ("Tubthumping") made them the toast of sports stadia worldwide, a rather different Chumbawamba stalked the toilet venues of England's counterculture. In 1986, as the rock world congratulated itself on its new, enlightened attitude to world poverty following Band Aid, a refusenik group of Leeds anarchists pointed out some of the inconsistencies behind the arguments. On the aptly titled Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records, Freddie Mercury, Cliff Richard, and Paul McCartney are ridiculed for their patronizing hypocrisy ("How to Get Your Band on Television"). Other targets included apartheid, multinationals, and cultural imperialism. The group's pervasive lyrics were augmented by music varying from punk-thrash to folk and jazz. This was a sophisticated approach entirely divorced from their fellow travelers (who contented themselves with sloganeering and three-chord bluster). For an album that adopted Crass' admirable but po-faced concerns about commercial exploitation of the planet and its inhabitants, the results were surprisingly listenable, and also extremely entertaining -- an "inconsistent, over-wordy dog-bark pop record" according to its authors when it was reissued on CD in 1991 (alongside Never Mind the Ballots as First 2)

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