Chumbawamba

Shhhlap!

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AllMusic Review by

When Chumbawamba decided to enter the '90s in style, sampling from the likes of Marc Bolan, Paul McCartney, ABBA, and Free for an album called Jesus H. Christ, they found a big wall of rejection -- no publisher would let them use the samples. Their reaction? This album, aptly titled Shhh. There are plenty of dance beats and programming to support tracks that do tend to meander a little bit, without the focus they'd gain in a couple more years. And so tracks like "Big Mouth Strikes Again" and "Happiness Is Just a Chant Away" lose their punch, even with the big choruses (and the latter's mantra of "Harry Roberts" is simply hilarious). At times they've left fairly plain evidence of where they'd intended to put the samples, like ABBA's "Money Money Money" or T. Rex' "Solid Gold Easy Action" -- in fact, spotting the fake sample becomes a fun game to play while listening to this. However, that novelty belittles the politics that lie beneath the music. Chumbawamba is an anarchist collective, and while the bandmembers wear their hearts on their sleeves, they're very thoughtful and clever, leavening the harsh reality of their political views with plenty of pop culture references and humor, some of it self-deprecating. But, to be fair, they're still finding their new voice, having left their punk pasts behind, and the momentum of the dance scene hasn't completely caught up with them yet, so much of the music comes across as tentative rather than forceful, which has the domino effect of diluting their most powerful weapon, the lyrics. So, to cut a long story short, it never quite lives up to its potential (and the samples probably wouldn't have made it much better, frankly). Not their best work, but interesting, and often amusing.

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