Chumbawamba

Swingin' with Raymond

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As the bandmembers themselves call it, Swingin' With Raymond is the "Lovin' It record and the Loathin' It record." And, given that it's a double-CD set, that makes perfect sense, especially when the songs seem to split them up so perfectly. Of course, this being Chumbawamba, it would be asking too much to think there aren't touches of irony in the love songs, where Lou Watts' sweet voice soothes over acoustic guitar and arrangements that steer clear of the jagged. And, beneath the velvet glove, you find songs like "This Girl," with its barbed portrait of a girl who grew up to be "bad" (at least by standard societal norms). But while the first CD seems to be all love songs, they're about the love of ideas -- even love itself becomes an idea. And when love does come, on "Love Can Knock You Over," it takes the wind out of all the theories and conversation. In many ways, that leads handily into the second CD, which rants -- loudly -- against politicians, the idealization of the feminine form, the death penalty, the police, bureaucrats, fascists, and rock stars who live in luxury while so many are homeless. Standard behavior for a band like this? Maybe, but it's very well done (the interjection of "In an English Country Garden" during "Ugh! Your Ugly Houses!" that gets trampled by buzzing punk guitar and beats, for example), with strong melodies and choruses giving plenty of pop power to the lyrics. This isn't a band that wants to reform the system, as the bandmembers readily admit. They want to tear it down and, on the basis of this, maybe some of their ideas are better than what's currently being employed. So, once again, pop meets politics and, as has to be the case with any good anarchist collective, the politics win -- but you can still think and dance while you listen.

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