Faster, Cheaper & Better Looking

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Once more into the breach, dear friends. The continuing saga of Chelsea has rarely failed to throw up at least a handful of invigorating surprises, and Faster Cheaper and Better Looking, the band's first studio release since their 1999 reunion, maintains that tradition. Indeed, with three members of the "classic," late-'70s lineup still on-board (Gene October, James Stevenson, and Chris Bashford, joined by latter-day Buzzcocks bassist Tony Barber), the band has arguably erased the memory of the chaos that reigned through the 1980s and 1990s and finally delivered the follow-up to Alternative Hits -- not at all coincidentally the last album to feature the same trio. A dozen-songs strong, Faster Cheaper and Better Looking opens with the one-two punch of "Living in the Urban UK" and "Sod the War," disaffected war cries that prove the Chelsea pen remains as sharp as it ever was -- Chelsea's greatest asset in the early days was its frontman's ability not simply to identify with his audience, but to actually morph with it, until his very lyrics became the slogans that decorated a million T-shirts. That remains true today, although the rage is also tinted with resignation -- like it says in the closing "If We Knew Then," "when we were 15, we thought we could rule the world. But now you're 50...." That, however, is the album's only acknowledgement of the years that have passed since Chelsea's youth, and this is wholly the sound of a band in its prime, vital and powerful, melodic and marching -- faster, cheaper and, yeah, if you like, maybe even better looking as well.

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