Rebels On The Dance Floor

Chumbawamba - Tubthumper
(Republic Records)
1 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)

Story by Tony Bonyata

After nearly 14 years of floundering in obscurity, at least in this country, England's 9-piece band Chumbawamba have become the hottest thing since Vanilla Ice, with their catchy smash hit "Tubthumping". The only problem is that, outside of this fun romp of a song, their latest album, Tubthumper, is a mess.
The members of the band are self-proclaimed anarchists, delivering songs of social unrest, unfair labor unions and a general hate for all of the establishment, and in theory this could seem as though the second coming of early punk-rock (Their 1986 debut album Pictures Of Starving Children Sell Records was a slam at the Live Aid benefit and on their 1987 follow-up Never Mind The Ballots they aimed their skewers at Britain's Margaret Thatcher just before the general election that year). But instead of playing bombastic, rudimentary three-chord progressions behind snarling, screaming vocals, such as The Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Ramones, Chumbawamba delivers their songs of protest and rebellion in the form of trendy disco music (It's hard to imagine the Pistols' Johnny Rotten shaking his booty to "Anarchy In The U.K." and having the same impact).
Pilfering into the current sounds of techno, hip-hop, London's drum-and-bass as well as pepperings of ska horns this band seems more determined in starting a revolution on the dance floor than against England's Parliament, where the band focuses a good amount of their hatred.
Adding further to the unevenness of this album are their forgettable, throw-away melodies, lush, yet out of place, female harmonies over heavy electronic samples on songs such as "Amnesia" and "The Big Issue", and in-between track protest rhetoric that takes it toll on the listener by mid-album.
The next time Chumbawamba puts on their dancing shoes and heads off for the disco they'd be a lot better off if they left their soap box at home.

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