on 5 August 2005
The Chameleons are one of those cultish, lost bands from the decade which is frequently written off, or summarised in Q-Mojo-style orthodoxy as 'the demise of The Jam - The Smiths - The Stone Roses', with perhaps an allusion to New Order if feeling especially adventerous (maybe only to mention the sleeve to 'Blue Monday' or the Hacienda, leading towards a tale of Sean Ryder taking drugs, which is as cool as Pete Doherty, whose the coolest mama in the sphere...)But a reassessment is due that decade, and to be fair is getting such a critical response - people realising that the roots of someone hip like The White Stripes is to be found in such 80s records as 'Fire of Love', 'Hallowed Ground' & 'Psychedelic Jungle.' While bands like Bloc Party, The Editors, Franz Ferdinand & Interpol nod towards the young men in long coats like The Bunnymen, The Cure, Joy Division & The Psychedelic Furs. Added to that great compilations-reissues like Orange Juice's 'The Glasgow School' and Scritti Politti's 'Early', and things like the development of electronic music, hip-hop and rave and the decade doesn't seem as empty as some suggest on nostalgia TV and simplistic articles. Heck, The Killers have even made Duran Duran seem like a good idea, despite lyrics like "My head is full of chopstick - I don't like it!"
But The Chameleons, and their potent back-catalogue are yet to be reclaimed from a decade that has been out of grace - 'Script of a Bridge' as the follow-ups 'The Fan & the Bellows', 'Strange Times' & 'What Does Anything Mean Basically?'
is a wonderful album - just sadly known only to a knowing few. Simon Reynolds, in his otherwise excellent book on post-punk and new-pop seems to have missed a trick or two in the chapter on what was later called 'big music' (The Bunnymen, U2, Teardrops, Waterboys, Simple Minds) - where was mention for The Chameleons in all that?
'Script of a Bridge', as any of the aforementioned albums would be an ideal primer to the band - the sound of 'Script' sounding like The Teardrop Explodes playing 'Crocodiles', though as several people I know and don't know have pointed out, the rather hip Interpol sound not unlike The Chameleons! I know Joy Division tend to be the hip comparison point for Carlos D. et al, something based on their lead singer's live-vocals, their static gothness live, and the first few seconds of drumming on 'PDA', but really, The Chameleons are much more the reference! (along with 'Heaven Up Here'-Bunnymen, Josef-K & 'Talk Talk Talk'-Furs) 'Script of a Bridge', apart from the sometime drum-machine sounding drums (common to the era, I'm afraid) easily stands up and offers a huge all encompassing sound with angular and chiming guitars that should please any fans of 'Antics' or 'Turn on the Bright Lights'...
It's all great - 'As High As You Can Go' introducing keyboards to the mix, asking us to "take a chance and join the dance and you can make the sun/take a chance and join the dance and you can go to ground...", the downer-rock of 'Monkeyland', the huge 'Up the Down Escalator' (whose chiming riffs are like a slower 'Debaser'!), & the epic closer 'View from a Hill' - whose spectral opening guitars are totally 'The Specialist'
'Script of a Bridge' is a classic of the era, from a band who released many great records, but just didn't get the audience they deserved - lumping them in a set of neglected greats including The Comsat Angels, The Sound & The Wild Swans. It is entirely possible, as the posthumous-popularity of Big Star, Nick Drake & The Velvet Underground proves, that people will catch on in the end. The hip-retro sound of 2013, or sooner?