Top positive review
6 people found this helpful
on 12 July 2001
This is my initial opinion after just two listens!
Probably the biggest disappointment is the opening track - like a clumsy bolting together of recent Burgess/Invincible/Sons of God with The Reegs, rather than the full Chams synthesis. The uncomfortable leap into the chorus seems ill-conceived and forced, like they were trying to do an updated Don't Fall to kick things off with a real bang. The lyrics I just don't get. The kind of opening track to get you worried if you ever had high hopes for long-quiet/defunct bands that then failed to deliver (Stone Roses, anyone?)
Despite initially veering into Invincible-sounding-like-Chameleons territory (or at least that's the worry after hearing track one), Anyone Alive? somehow rescues itself to pull above this and into real Chams greatness. One of those comfortable Burgess compositions of recent years which could really grow on you.
Familiar from Strip now re-recorded and modified slightly but still very recognisable, Indiana was probably worth reworking after all the touring to show how much they really have come back together. Suddenly the song has areas of light and shade, subtleties and inflections missing from the original which will convince those who weren't sure of it first time around. It's funny to come across a familiar tune in this new album only to have to remind yourself this is New Chameleons, not another Old Chameleons reworking - yet still the song that bridges the gap for most of us I guess.
Coming in on backwards drums and acoustic guitars we hear something of what solo Burgess might have been with better production and perhaps more musical and instrumental self-discipline - then those distinctive guitar chimes come in and the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. I could almost hear this taking a place on side 2 of Strange Times, following in the introspective mood of Time/End of Time or thereabouts. Lovely!
Truth Isn't Truth Anymore
Interesting - unusual harmonies and melodies in the verse contrast with the crunching guitars of the chorus, but does it try a little too hard to be clever? A bit too prog rock for my liking, I'm afraid. Perhaps it's because it's their first venture into the 'difficult' 5/4 time signature, at least for large parts of the song, alternating with 6/8 - very brave, but it can land them in unfortunate territory!
CD-Tree folk will be familiar with this slice of gorgeousness that kicks off with just Mark and an acoustic guitar, before other instruments start to creep in and the song builds and the band enters fully after the first chorus. To me this is the link to the great melodic 'pop' songs of Tony Fletcher-era Chams - you can almost feel the need for a huge bank of orchestral strings to swoop in for the final choruses - if Neil Hannon (The Divine Comedy) had been around there would be a thousand violins playing by the end of it, but with Reg and Dave we get something less predictable and perhaps more inventive. I do love this song! Eerie ending, sounds like something off a David Sylvian instrumental circa 1990...
I don't think we've ever heard a tremelo guitar opening a Chams track, have we? Not a song destined for mega-greatness, but the sounds that hold it together are lovely, and I suspect it could be something of a sleeper, a track you end up loving without knowing when you started or why. As with Shades I don't think the chorus really works - there's a great mood set up which it shatters unnecessarily, but maybe it'll grow on me. The bass almost feels like it's thinking of drifting into something dubby, which might have been an interesting deviation - it always sounds like it might happen but never quite does.
Music in the Womb
A Hammond Organ? Shurely shome mishtake? But no, and we've got acoustics, some kind of buzzy e-bow thing - they're not afraid to expand their soundscapes are they? Oh, and no bass either, which adds to a kind of weightlessness, a feeling of unrooted floating. This is surely another song Mark might have put on a solo outing without this degree of well-worked-out musical sophistication, and we'd have thought it a curiosity perhaps. Bringing the band in lifts it onto another plane altogether.
Miracles and Wonders
Kicks off with Kwasi, whose fast delivery over such a slow beat is what? Daring? Love it / hate it? But then he comes back in a bit later and it suddenly falls into place and works. This song has a lovely feel to it, one they've clearly worked long and hard on it. I love the others singing the vocal "If anything can happen then it probably will" - I wonder what they're talking about?!? And then there's the ending - a long sonic dreamscape, with swirling synths and drone, water sounds, ambient noises - speech, playground sounds, snatches of radio. Perhaps this is the audio evocation of those two lines in View from a Hill -"Pick myself up and take the air/ The fragrance of children everywhere"? This is surely the song about coming back together, about rebirth, but about matters more deep and fundamental too. A song you'll have to listen to over and over again, just because it's there.
Are You Still There?
More ambient sounds, picking up from the previous track, overlaid with warm synth melodies, I hear this as a musical prayer of thanks, though I'm not religious, a thank you to the fans for being still here. It has something very personal at its heart, something really warm and joyous, yet intimate too. A kind of homecoming. Welcome back - we've missed you!