Chumbawamba

Anarchy

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Guaranteed to disturb and delight, from the cover picture of a baby being born to the no-punches-pulled lyrics, Chumbawamba freely indulges in anarchy -- which means life without rules, but quite strict discipline. And, to make their case, they mix pop and politics, putting the iron fist (with its many pop culture references) inside the velvet glove of modern pop music. It's sly, wry, often comic, and they're not afraid of making fun of themselves. In other words, it should both scare and entertain you. It's far from their punk roots, at least musically, with lots of big choruses on songs like "Mouthful of Shit," "Love Me," and "Give the Anarchist a Cigarette," dance beats and fear of the future on "Timebomb," and a distinct nod to folk music -- an avenue they'd explored before -- with the pointed "Homophobia," which equates prejudice with AIDS. There's a fierce intelligence at work here, not only in the lyrics, where the irony often shines through a little too brilliantly, but in the music, with its judicious use of samples (such as Homer Simpson's "Doh!" or another that sounds like a speeded-up Pink Floyd keyboard lick from Dark Sound of the Moon) and programming -- although notably the machines always take second place to the human element. They're not simply chest-thumping or standing on a soapbox decrying everything -- they're aiming to hit the members of a younger generation where they live. And even if they're never going to have careers as rappers, at least on the basis of "This Year's Thing," they make their points very clearly, as in the '50s-styled "Georgina," a tale of revenge for wife abuse refracted (or possibly distorted) through the lens of The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover. Throughout the album, there's some inspiring music that's made on a shoestring but sounds like a million dollars. The anarchist musical collective known as Chumbawamba not only talks the talks, but also walks the walks. Think and laugh -- and don't forget to dance, too.

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