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For completists only... love 'em as they once were.
on 4 January 2001
There was a point in my life at which The Chameleons were the quintessential "to die for" indie band - stroppy, moody Northern ne'er do wells with intelligent lyrics, a screw-you attitude, whose weakest songs would knock anything that the likes of Oasis will ever produce into a cocked hat... oh, and they had *that* incredible, ethereal-but-ballsy guitar sound which influenced everyone from Kitchens of Distinction through to the nascent Stone Roses. They had a sound, they had a point, they had about *one* good idea but it was a bloody good one.
In brief, they were *my* band for a few blissfully short years, beautiful albums, and were the soundtrack to my life for a while.
The death of their manager Tony Fletcher, the man who'd held them together or so long, finally allowed their internal politics to get the better of them just as they were beginning to enjoy the acclaim they genuinely deserved. I loved 'em to bits, and still do... still, all the good bands die young.
After that, there followed the usual litany of offshoots and career-motivated opportunities, some better than others, some best ignored... some were big in Germany, which just about speaks for itself <g>.
Enough of the history lesson, except to say that if you haven't enjoyed any of their albums prior to "Strip", their toe-in-the-water acoustic return, then now's the time to check them out, pronto... before the deletion fairy gets hold of them.
There's a little idiom which says a truly great song will sound great however it's played, and the Chams had some truly great songs despite the trademark wash of geetar FX smothering everything, which actually formed a large part of their appeal...
...so why they chose to showcase acoustic versions of some really early "learning centre" material which only worked becuse of its jagged, angular, effected appeal... well, Christ only knows. "Less than Human", "Nathan's Phase", "Here Today", "Pleasure and Pain"... (hell, even "Soul in Isolation" to an extent) suffer from a complete lack of the haunted tension so evident in their earlier album versions.
OK, some of those tracks are twenty years old this year, but they just do *NOT* work acoustically... similarly, "On The Beach" suffers in that it was never a very good electric song, and translates poorly into an acoustic paean to nothing.
So why the hell am I, a supposed "big fan", writing this?
Simply because there are two tracks on here which are absolutely essential for any Chams devotee... "Caution" and "Paradiso", which actually left me breathless. These tracks alone are proof of how good this band was, and how much they had to offer before they called it a day.
Yes, I'm speaking in the past tense... if the much vaunted new material "Road to San Remo" (an acoustic doodle from Dave, I think) and "Indian" are anything to go by, then I won't be rushing out to buy their next studio album.
If you're already a fan, then don't buy it for the new material because you're wasting your time - get either of Puressence's superb albums instead. Just get it for "Caution", which is worth the asking price alone.
If you're not a fan, check out "Return of the Roughnecks" (a "best of") if you can still get it, or better still go straight for the albums "Script of the Bridge", "What Does Anything Mean Basically?", and (essentially) "Strange Times".
If you hate 'em, you can bill me.