The Chameleons UK

This Never Ending Now

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Having started their reunion with a semi-acoustic revisiting of past songs, Strip, the Chameleons followed up Why Call It Anything with another such album in This Never Ending Now. Repeating none of the tracks reworked on Strip, it's another lovely alternate visit into some of the band's strongest songs old and new, with one key difference: the presence of drummer John Lever, who didn't make the Strip sessions due to other commitments -- on that album his absence led to meditative, exploratory reworkings of songs like "Soul in Isolation," while his presence here adds the brisk power he's so strong at providing, though in keeping with the album's approach it's understated here rather than slamming. Mark Burgess is still in fine voice, and the album's general emphasis on more direct recording for both instruments and vocals means his warm singing comes through in clear, crisp ways. The Dave Fielding/Reg Smithies guitar team is once again on fire, adding sharp new touches throughout -- the acoustic break on "Tears" in favor of the familiar electric overdrive is one example of many. Some of the most compelling takes come from the What Does Anything Mean? Basically material -- "Intrigue in Tangiers" keeps the same strong punch, but Burgess' singing is both more direct and wistful. Tackling slightly rarer material such as "The Fan and the Bellows" and "Is It Any Wonder?" is also a treat, but the majestic revisions of the band's eternal anthems "Second Skin" and "Swamp Thing," the roiling slow-burn power of the originals sublimated into graceful, keening calls are to die for. The kicker comes with a concluding cover, the second formal David Bowie remake of the band's existence -- the Ziggy Stardust standout "Moonage Daydream," still acoustic at heart but no less dramatic and entrancing for that.

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