The Chameleons


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Finally, after more than a dozen posthumous records since their breakup in 1987 -- every single demo, radio session, alternate version, unreleased track, rehearsal, best-of, and a live album that could be squeezed out of this long-lost cult favorite -- comes some brand new stock. That's "new" as in recorded recently, the product of the band's totally unexpected 2000 reunion. And yet -- and isn't it just like them -- Strip is still the same seven or eight songs you've now heard in every conceivable version possible being recycled again (!), in the final format left: unplugged, drummerless versions. Argghh! Let it be clear: for the first five or six archive documents, it was breathtaking. But hasn't such a state of overkill been reached on these songs that Strip is redundant to an egregious fault? Well, not entirely. Having gone into the same Suite 16, the studio where they did their vintage work, and taken their time over ten full days in the spring, the band hasn't so much retread its golden oldies for the umpteenth time as recast them completely as modern ideas. By using only the acoustics, the Chameleons jettison all that could be construed as '80s in their sound, and let the melodies rise as enduring compositions, timeless in their conception or in their belonging. Thus, there's a space in these songs that was never there previously. Best of all, one can now make out all of Mark Burgess' words for the first time, letting the subtle but solemn poetry of "Soul in Isolation" (a rarely equaled achievement of philosophic expression) set in deeper than ever. He's "alive in here," indeed. Shuddering. As a bonus, Strip closes with two new songs: the tiny instrumental snippet "Road to San Remo" and, more significantly, "Indian." This one comes with drums, an electric guitar lead, and a desert harmonica, suggesting a more likely direction for the band when they make an actual "new" LP. The song could use a stronger chorus, but quibbling aside, it's another cogent slice of a now revitalized group that was one of the greatest in history and is now poised to reascend toward that throne as a current act. This is at least a rather nice, uncharacteristically modest, re-how-de-do.

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