From what I consider to be a vastly underrated band.
Chumbawamba had the misfortune of having one of its worst songs become its “breakout hit” in the US. As a result, most folks here have never heard anything by the band other than that one annoying 2-dimensional tune, which is a shame, since most of their music is multi-layered and delivers a biting political and/or social commentary. What I’ve always loved about the band is how upbeat and happy their music is even as it’s delivering an often harsh message – and quite often with very naughty words, which thrills my inner juvenile delinquent. A band with a peppy sound that’s also aggressively anarchist and atheist? With profane and hilarious lyrics? Count me in!
These videos are boring, but I only put them up for the audio, so listen with an open mind. There’s quite a story behind this first one:
That’s a cut from the 1992 album Jesus H. Christ. Only around 7,000 copies of this recording ever made it into circulation, thanks to a suit brought by Sir Paul McCartney. Jesus H. Christ was an ambitious sampling project for Chumbawamba – they borrowed not only audio samples but lines from other songs, melodic lines, etc. Unfortunately, one of the samples they borrowed (to brilliant effect) was the opening sequence from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. McCartney sued & won, and the band was enjoined from releasing any more copies.
This album haunted me for years because I didn’t know what it was. All I had was a copy of a tape someone brought into the used record store where I was working while in grad school; the only information on the tape was the name of the band, and the guy had given us the back story on the lawsuit. I played that tape over and over again for the next 10 or 12 years until it was wearing out, then began searching in earnest to find out what it was. Fortunately, by this time, the internet was around, but still, it took a couple of years of searching until someone finally posted information about the album and I found out what it was called. Then there was another year or so of scouring the internets looking for a copy for sale. Finally one turned up in 2006 and as soon as it arrived I put together my setup for recording my vinyl to digital files. Now it seems that parts of Jesus H. Christ have made it to YouTube.
This next is from their 2004 release, Un. Again, not much as a video, but what a fabulous, peppy song for probing the depths of the darkest, looniest conspiracy theories:
Accordion music with a funky beat you can dance to and darkly humorous lyrics? Again, what’s not to love?
If you’ve never been properly introduced to Chumbawamba, now you know what you’ve been missing.
Update: As commenter Pete Shanks notes, the entirety of Jesus H. Christ is now on YouTube, divided into segments 1-4. The recording quality on some of it isn’t quite as good as it could be, but at least it’s available for your listening pleasure. These have only been posted for a couple of months, so thanks for the sleuthing, Pete!
You won’t get the full effect thanks to the divisions; on the album itself all the songs meld one to another in a seamless bridge of sound, ala Pink Floyd/Alan Parsons Project. And yeah, a lot of folks will listen to a bit and say “meh,” because this is, after all, an obsession I developed way back in 1993 and the recording is in some ways very much of that era, and of course, the music any of us likes is such an individual preference. But if it grabs you the way it grabbed me all those years ago and you’d like your very own copy of it, drop a note in comments.
You can listen to part 1 here; each part has a link on the page to the next part.