The new acoustic Chumbawamba are now three albums into their career, and they seem to have really got the hang of it with this one. The boy bands haven't won, of course, not when there's creativity like this around. Perhaps they've now settled comfortably enough into their new identity to become more open, but this collection of songs long and short includes drumming, some programming, fuller arrangements here and there with Dixieland, and a stray brass band, a couple of samples (Martin Carthy speaking) and even some guests, in the shape of the Oysterband's Robb Johnson and Roy Bailey -- all folkies with a strong political bent. The songs here actually seem to pick up from where the older version of the band left off with Readymades, hutting notes that are political and poignant -- usually together -- "Refugee" is a perfect example, but there's also plenty of acid wit ("Add Me") and in "Word Bomber" they've made a gorgeous plea for peace that never comes close to the maudlin. They know their strengths and play to them, using harmonies and simple melodies -- witness "Words Can Save Us." Now they're firmly fixed on the folkie side of the aisle, they cock a snoot at trad folk with the delicious "Lord Bateman's Motorbike." The anger might not be as overt as it was in the mid-'90s, but it's still there, and they now seem to thoroughly understand how to mix pop -- of the acoustic folk variety, of course -- and politics in the most natural way. Perhaps surprisingly for a band that's been around for so long, but one of the most satisfying discs of their career.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Chris Nickson